Making the Most of It

I’m finally at graduation.   It’s an odd place. Lest you think I’m kidding, I’m typing this as I listen to the valedictorian speak.  He’s doing a nice job, quoting Theodore Roosevelt about who matters- the man in the arena and not the critic.  

Being the man in the arena is not unusual for me.  I wrestled (and lettered) all 4 years of high school, I earned my living and my pay as a cannon cocker on a gun line.  In these I am totally used to being the man in the arena. Such ventures prepared me for tackling a new arena- academics.

I was not a scholar in high school.  Bad grades? Son, I barely kept myself legal to wrestle.  Until my senior year, I never broke above 2.5. Now I’m supposed to take on the joys of college?  Oh boy!

I’ve sat through hours of classes, up in the morning before sunrise, home well after dark, and sacrificed a lot of time with my wife and children, all in pursuit of a degree.  It still doesn’t feel any different. I damn sure don’t feel smarter. But I’m graduating all the same, first man in my father’s family to ever make it this far in school.

What I have now is the opportunity to go out and prove I’ve gained something from all the hours used and all the time sacrificed.  In this case it’ll be trying to write a novel in one summer and take it to market. Not just because I’m bored but because that’s what I’m doing for an internship this summer.   

We talk about how wonderful this digital age is, but do we understand the full ramifications, the depths and heights to which we may now aspire?  The more I’ve studied it this last semester, the more incredulous I find myself.

What I am typing on a handheld device, and publishing in the space of a few minutes will reach the ends of the earth as fast as the data can move.  What was once a broadsheet printed on a wood and metal frame, dependent on sailing ships and convoys of overland merchant men now moves at a speed limited only by the physics of light and electronic information.

Less than 300 years ago, my paternal ancestors relied on pounding out tapa and didn’t have much in the way of a written language.  Which was really no different than how their forefathers had done things for the thousand years prior. I have the opportunity to accomplish so much more and even if I don’t become an overnight success like Clancy or Rowling I can live with myself knowing I gave it everything I had.  

Don’t get me wrong- I’d love enough money to buy a ranch in Texas, a mansion in Hawaii, with the ability to fly between those two locations whenever I wish, plus a gorgeous red car decorated with a rearing black horse.  But experience (and great Sergeants) have tempered my expectations for myself. As the Kipling declared “if you can meet success and disaster. And treat those two imposters just the same… yours is the world my son, and what’s more you’ll be a man!”

Truly, we live in an incredible age.  Let us make the most of what we have been afforded.  


      1. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t do and can’t teach become university professors.

        Just being around people like that is hard.

        1. In some disciplines, you can find faculty who can do and can teach.

          But, in theory, I try to learn from everyone I come across. In practice, even with as little human contact as I have, the processing load from that is too high. Still, I may be inclined to over rate people who are not gifted teachers, or whose knowledge has severe flaws that I am not yet aware of.

  1. Congratulations! As bad as academia have gotten this generation, it’s still an accomplishment to actually complete a degree. 80% of any job really is just showing up (or in a writer’s case, picking up the pen or banging on the keys), and far too many millennials still don’t understand that concept. If you’ve managed it without going 5 to 6 significant figures into debt, you’ve done fantastic!

    Never thought I’d get a BS. Surprised myself by getting an MS. Only use I can find for an MD or PhD is purely ornamental; if I want to really learn something, I don’t need a damn sheepskin anymore. Of course I AM 60, so nobody is likely to be looking at what degrees I have anymore, but only if I can do, or have done, what I say I can do. Being retired military, I can do quite a lot; you tell me what you want done, when, and what the budget is, and I’ll tell you it either can’t be done that cheap unless you’re looking for eyewash, or you’ll have it on the day required. On the other hand, I could do it just for family bragging rights as being the first to get a doctorate.


  2. You done good Marine! 🙂 Seriously, you’ve accomplished much in a short time, and that is a credit not only to you, but to your lovely wife for her support too! Keep up the good work!

  3. Congratulations! Proud of you! That’s a hella accomplishment! I always like having “returning” (a.k.a. adults) students in my classes. They pay attention, participate, and do the work. And, they bring perspectives to things that the others students have likely never heard or considered. I’ve had Gulf War vets, Afghanistan & Iraq vets, 3 ladies who were all Holocaust survivors (the stories THEY had!), single mothers, single fathers…in short people from all walks of life. My hat is off to all of you for the hours of work and the insane balancing act you all pull off. Treat yourself to the car…I’ll be doing that as soon as I can! 😀

    1. Most adult learners are more motivated because they realize by that time that they’re the one shelling on the money for the classes; not Mommy, Daddy, or Big Brother. (And no, military tuition assistance or the GI Bill is not free money; it’s been paid for in copious amounts of blood, sweat, and tears; or for some of us, in investing our own money for a really bad ROI when we actually start drawing on it.)

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