It’s hard for me to comprehend that early next month will mark 10 years since that chilly overcast graduation day on the hillside. In some respects, it feels like weeks, rather than years, have passed since I was last sledding on cafeteria trays down the hill in front of Simpson Hall, or speed walking from one side of campus to the other to reach class in time. But in other ways, it really feels like a lifetime ago.
I watched and often discussed the 2000 Presidential election in my little Dunbar apartment, arguing my uber-conservative Libertarian viewpoints against my semi-conservative and liberal friends. The “me” of 2000 would hardly recognize the social-activist liberal “me” of today.
And I think that speaks volumes about college life and beyond.
I arrived at college in 1998 thinking that I knew pretty much everything. I figured I would roll through college, maybe learn a few things, then graduate and get a job. There is no way this wide-eyed, neatly Republican high-school graduate could have known how Nyack College would change his life. Virtually every aspect of my life changed within the first year. Influences from my friends, professors, coworkers at Temptations Cafe, or even books I was reading all conspired together to take me from immaturity to maturity, from simplistic in my view of the world, to seeing the complexity.
By the time 2000 rolled around, I was a self-described social Libertarian (i.e., VERY conservative), having shed my high school Republican persona, and now I had arrived! I concluded my college experience with student-teaching in New City Elementary, a nice suburban school, and ultimately graduated from Nyack in May of 2002.
I began my teaching career in September 2002. Once again I entered into teaching thinking that I knew pretty much everything (you’d think I’d have learned my lesson). I was teaching in an urban New Jersey school district that was vastly different than my prior experience in New City. And, once again, my life would be drastically changed within the first few years. Seeing the needs of impoverished students had an impact on me in much the same way my college friends and professors had.
What I’ve learned is that changing your way of thinking based on new evidence does not make you weak. Seeing things in a new way is a catalyst for growth. It takes integrity and intellectual honesty to always seek the truth, even when the truth you find contradicts the truth you thought you had.
I won’t be surprised if, 10 years from now, I’m writing about the 30′s “me” with fond memories of my own naivety. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.