Alchemical Thoughts

Preliminary thoughts for the Hispanic Progressive Dinner

Posted on: February 20, 2008

In a short while, I will be asked to stand before a group of potential college students and give a small testimonial. We are speaking for a group of Latino students on the importance of a college education. That is the common theme. I am one of four speakers, and I have been sort of given some free reign to speak of my experience and/or bring in the experience of the parents, in this case, my parents. You see, I am the first in my house to make it through college. It was a big decision at the time, and in my case at least, I would be away from home for the first time, living on my own. One of our other speakers will speak on the importance of "plugging in," of being active in the campus they choose. And that is important. Finding friends and people I could "plug in" with certainly helped me out. But it also helped out that I kept in touch with my parents. It did not mean I called every day. For some of you it might. In my case, it took a bit longer. You see, you get caught up in your studying, your socializing, your friends, your parties, and you sort of forget to call until "mami" calls to check on you. Or better yet, your dad calls saying, "your mother was worried." Funny how when your dad calls, he is never the one who is worried. Oh no, it's always "your mom was worried you haven't called in a while." And he will say "your mother" (more formal) if he is trying to give you a guilt trip for not calling. So do remember to pick up that phone and call home once in a while, even if it's just to say that things are going great. And if things are not going so great, do call too. They want to hear from you. They care about you. Does not have to be anything dramatic or tragic. Far from it. It could be that you decided that you are now going to change your major. Somewhere along the way you figured out that accounting was not your thing, and now you want to be an art major. It happens. Happened to me, only I figured out engineering was not for me, and I wanted to become a school teacher. So, I grab the phone for the dreaded call. What will mom and dad say? What will they think? Know what? Mom, wise woman that she is, simply said the following to me: "I knew you were not going to finish that career path. That was not you." When I asked, she said she did not tell me because she wanted me to figure it out by myself. She had faith I would realize it somewhere along the way. Now, I am not saying to you folks that you should make a lot of changes to your study plan. Once you find your path, study hard and stick with it. And parents, what I am trying to say is, tempting as it may be, don't rush in to save your kid if he or she gets in a bit of problem. Be supportive. Listen. If they need help, help them, but otherwise, it's ok to let them go and discover new things on their own. I didn't quite appreciate it at the time, but later I did realize mom meant well and cared. She could have told me, "don't pick that major. Don't do this or that." Instead she let me go ahead and figure it out for myself, and it turned out just fine. I went on to finish my teaching degree, on time (ok, I had to take a couple of summer classes to stay on time), and I went on to become a teacher. Now, later on I discovered higher education, and I became a librarian, but that is another story.

Let me leave you with a bit more of advice. When you go about "plugging in" and finding your friends and so on, here are some people you may want to be friendly with as well. For one, if you live in the dorms, your resident advisers. They are your first contact with the campus path. Two, your professors. They have office hours for a reason: so you can show up if you need help in your classes. However, if you don't show up, your teacher may have to do grading or some other task he would rather put off. So, once in a while, show up just to say hello. Two, your librarian. When it comes time to do research, he or she will help you find stuff even your professor did not know existed. Besides, if you need a quiet spot to study, and you will need to study, the library happens to be a good place for that too.

Well, I think that is what I am going to go with. Oh, did I mention? I have to speak about this in Spanish. It's not the Spanish part (I am fluent); it's just that I don't get to do this kind of thing very often. So I am thrilled, but also a bit nervous. I'll let you all know how it turns out tomorrow.   

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