Life Experience

Noticing the Details

Written October 16th, 2011
Categories: Life Experience, Self Discovery
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(Photo credit:  reprinted from Princeton Center for Yoga and Health posted 10.16.11 on Facebook)

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Today I ran across the above photograph that had this caption beneath it:  “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.” (Elizabeth Warren).  It does not seem possible, but we are into the waning months of 2011.  Much of the country is past the peak of the fall foliage.  Thanksgiving is only a month away, and that will launch the craziness of the holiday season. This quote suggested that, even with all that lay before us, we must stop every once in a while and just exhale.

While the main purpose of this blog is to motivate its readers to return to school, fulfill their dreams and take a chance, you still have to put the brakes on every once in a while.  There is joy in just stopping.

A friend of mine and I make a point once a week to walk through the roads near my home.  I live in the South, so our path is filled with live oaks dripping in Spanish moss.  There is always the fragrance of some sort of flora and greenery in the air.  As we walk, I am amazed at what she sees.  We will be chatting away, and she will stop suddenly to pick up an object from the road – usually it is an object that is out of place, such as a spoon.  She will examine it for a second and perhpas take it with her, or leave it behind.  It depends on how she thinks she can use it, or maybe she might just save it for a little while as a memento of an enjoyable conversation.  Her ability to see the details brings a fresh, new perspective to a walk along a familiar path.

As we rush forward toward 2012, and the busy-ness of your life begins to dictate your days, take some time to slow things down.  It is going to be tempting to try to cram events and errands into the week as the days start getting shorter and colder.  But, find a quiet corner, or a new path for a walk, or look overhead at the evening sky and the stars that are piercing the crisp fall air – and deeply inhale.  Exhale and enjoy the moment.

Trusting Yourself

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

 

(Image downloaded from smstemplates.net via “Google images”)

 

 

Recently, a friend lamented that his mother “never trusted her intelligence.”   She had started college, but never completed, and became content in her position as a teacher’s aide, rather than a teacher.  Of course, one is not necessarily better than the other.  However, the reason for her not pursuing her degree – not trusting her intelligence – is an interesting one, and may lie at the heart of why a nontraditional student does not return to college, even though earning a degree might allow the potential student to go to the “next level” of her/his profession.

 

Each of us is the unique result of our background, family environment, culture, education, religion and experiences.  Because we adapt to our circumstances, we may come to believe that our upbringing and current cultural environment has predetermined our future.  For instance, you may have been raised in a blue-collar environment where the nobility of labor has been emphasized, rather than the pursuit of higher education.  Perhaps, no one in your family has ever earned a bachelor’s degree, so you see it as something that has no application in the “real world.”  You may have even shared with co-workers your curiosity about college, only to be teased and ridiculed.  Yet, there lies in the back of your mind a curiosity, a stirring of interest, in how pursuing a college degree could enhance – and change – your life.

 

You know you are smart.  People tell you that all the time.  You want to know more, but are not sure where to go or what to do.  It is so much easier to continue with the path of your life that you have laid down – retire with the same company, or perhaps your family’s business.  But, to do so does not mean that you cannot satisfy your curiosity about additional possibilities.  Allow yourself the joy of discovery, including the discovery of where your intelligence can take you.  Trust your intelligence.  Trust yourself.

Turning Your Life Upside Down

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

 

(Image retrieved from Google Images.  Web site for image: http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2009/10/20/upside-down-house-in-germany)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever take something that is really familiar and change it so drastically that it feels new?

I like to do that with furniture arrangement.  I change the placement of my living room furniture at least four times a year.   By reordering the center of my home, there seems to be a rippling effect into the other rooms.  I have to pass by the living room on the way to the kitchen, so I have the opportunity to appreciate the change several times a day.

When I travel long distances, I always fly.  This past summer, when visiting friends in New Jersey, I decided to take an Amtrak sleeper car up the East Coast.  I had never had such solitude and privacy when traveling before.  I was on the train for 13 hours and spent about half that time sleeping and the other half admiring the vista out my “picture window.” Although I enjoy the bird’s eye view that plane travel offers, the new vantage point from my sleeper car was refreshing! There is no question, I will be doing that again!

One of the courses I teach, I have taught dozens and dozens of times.  Last year, I changed part of it and that change infused new life into the course.  That went so well (and felt so good) that I completely changed the entire course for this year!  We have just ended the first week of the new term, and all of the things I used to do have been replaced by new lecture topics, new PowerPoint, and a new order of presentation of material.  It feels weird, but good.  It reminds me of buying a new pair of shoes that has a different sole and heel from your other shoes.  It feels weird, but there is a new awareness to how you walk and stand.

So, what can you do to gain a new perspective on your life?  What familiar things are you doing that you can rearrange, reorder and renew?

Taking college courses can help you do that – and it doesn’t matter what level of education you have.  One of my colleagues, who has two Ph.D.s, often takes the art and design courses that are offered to our undergraduates.  She is always amazed by the new perspective she has gained (with an added benefit of understanding the courses our students are taking).  These courses tend to turn her point-of-view upside down and she loves it!

If you have been considering returning to school – whether for your first college course or courses post-doc – now is just as good a time as any.  Although the fall term is already underway for most colleges and universities, there are fascinating workshops you can take through the Continuing Education department of your local college.  Check out their on-line catalog, and find the courses that will give you a new perspective.  Turn your life — or at least your perspective — upside down!

Keeping Things Running (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from New Mexico State University Alumni Spotlight Archives, 2010, Dona Ana Community College)

 

 

Jay Armijo was raised in Sierra County and brings a home-town perspective and passion to his position as executive director for the South Central Council of Governments. Having worked for several state agencies, two councils of government, and as a County Commissioner Jay has worked directly with all thirty-three New Mexico counties helping to provide services to Veterans, Senior Citizens, small businesses, and communities that lack adequate infrastructure.

Jay attended the Dona Ana Community College [Las Cruces, NM] Automotive Technology program and graduated in 1988. He has worked in the automotive industry as a technician as well as owning and operating his own automotive repair business. Jay currently holds ASE and General Motors Certifications and attributes his passion for diagnosing and repairing vehicles as the key element that gives him an exceptional ability to facilitate solutions to challenges facing communities.

 

Where Were They Then? (Success Stories Series)

(Source:  Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, www.aatyc.org)

The list below tells us where the successful alumni are now, but it also indicates the two-year colleges where they began their careers.  It is unlikely (although possible) that when Eduardo Padron entered Dade County Junior College, he said “One day I’ll be President of Miami-Dade Community College.” Or, that Gwendolyn Brooks said “One day I’ll be the nation’s Poet Laureate.”  But, that is where they are now.

Everyone has to start someplace.   The old saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” is true for all of us.  The “Notable Two-Year College Alumni” list shares with us that first step and where they were well into their journey.

Where are you?

Notable Two-Year College Alumni:
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner, Wilson Junior College
  • Eileen Collins, NASA Astronaut, Corning Community College
  • Jennifer Dearman, Intelligence Officer for the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas
  • Steve Francis, Professional Basketball Athlete, San Jacinto Community College
  • Fred Haise, NASA Astronaut, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
  • Tom Hanks, Oscar-winning Actor, Chabot College
  • Queen Latifah, Rapper and Actress, Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • Jim Lehrer, National News Anchor, Victoria College
  • James McLean, State Representative, Arkansas State University Mountain Home
  • Kweisi Mfume, President/CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Community College of Baltimore
  • Captain Scott Moore, Pine Bluff Fire Department, Southeast Arkansas Community College
  • Eduardo Padron, President of Miami-Dade Community College, Dade County Junior College
  • Dr. Susan Patton, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, East Arkansas Community College
  • Nolan Ryan, Major League Baseball Athlete, Alvin Community College
  • Deborah Wieneke, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Benton County, NorthWest Arkansas Community College

Just a Cliché?

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Recently, I asked my Facebook friends to post their favorite sayings.  I received a dozen or so, and was delighted by the spirit, courage and joy that were common threads among them.  Below are listed the submissions:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin Roosevelt

“Do What You Like, Like What You Do” – Life Is Good (TM) motto

“I don’t think there’s anything better you can do in this world than bring light wherever you go.” – Oprah Winfrey

“You can either be happy about something or unhappy about something… I choose to be happy.” – Tamela Sparks

“If you say you can or if you say you can’t; either way you are right!” – Henry Ford

“Nobody can ever take your integrity away from you. Only you can give up your integrity.” – H. Norman Schwarzkopf

“Just because no one realizes what a gold mine you are, doesn’t mean you shine any less.” – T. D. Jakes

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” – Unknown author

“Yoga may not be a way of lifting life’s burdens from our shoulders, but it surely makes the path under foot for carrying them a lot smoother.” – George Cox

‎”Do it trembling if you must, but do it!” – Emmet Fox

‎”A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.”

- Walt Disney

What is so amazing about the quotes is their positive energy and hopeful message.  Some of the authors are famous and some are not-so-famous.  In all cases, the words are inspiring.

This is a list you might want to save.  Put it on your refrigerator, or some other place where it is handy.  Then, on a day when you need to be particularly motivated, turn one of these “clichés” into your special mantra for the day!

Actively Participating

(reprinted from “Daily OM” posted on March 11, 2011)

Showing up for your life means actively participating in our own life rather than hiding and going through the motions.

The way we walk into a room says a lot about the way we live our lives. When we walk into a room curious about what’s happening, willing to engage, and perceiving ourselves as an active participant with something to offer, then we have really shown up to the party. When we walk into a room with our eyes down, or nervously smiling, we are holding ourselves back for one reason or another. We may be hurting inside and in need of healing, or we may lack the confidence required to really be present in the room. Still, just noticing that we’re not really showing up, and having a vision of what it will look and feel like when we do, can give us the inspiration we need to recover ourselves.

Even if we are suffering, we can show up to that experience ready to fully engage in it and learn what it has to offer. When we show up for our life, we are actively participating in being a happy person, achieving our goals, and generally living the life our soul really wants. If we need healing, we begin the process of seeking out those who can help us heal. If we need experience, we find the places and opportunities that can give us the experience we need in order to do the work we want to do in the world. Whatever we need, we look for it, and when we find it, we engage in the process of letting ourselves have it. When we do this kind of work, we become lively, confident, and passionate individuals.

There is almost nothing better in the world than the feeling of showing up for our own lives. When we can do this, we become people that are more alive and who have the ability to make things happen in our lives and the lives of the people around us. We walk through the world with the knowledge that we have a lot to offer and the desire to share it.

Notes from a Gen Xer

by Norma Jones, University of North Texas

During recessions, more non-traditional students (NTS) are returning to earn degrees and learn skills to improve personal economic situations.  As a result, community colleges and universities are competing with newer, online, and private institutions to attract non-traditional learners.  In addition, community colleges and universities have also become increasingly friendly to non-traditional students with online content and flexible scheduling.  I have observed a shift to non-traditional formats such as online classes as well as classes scheduled later in the day to allow for working adults to participate.

The US Department of Education (2002) have assigned the following characteristics to NTS:  delayed enrollment (did not continue onto post secondary in the same year as completing high school), part time, full time employee (35+ hours a week), financially independent (as determined by financial aid services), have dependants, single parents, and have GED instead of a high school diploma.  As of 2000, 73% of all post secondary students have one or more of the above characteristics thus classifying them as NTS.  I find it interesting that the US Department of Education does not include age as a NTS characteristic because in classrooms, non-traditional learners are usually identified because they are older.

The Federal Student aid services (2005) classify NTS as over 25 and as of 2005, over 27% of undergraduate students considered to be non-traditional.  Furthermore, they estimate that between 2006 to 2017, over 25 enrollment will increase by 19%.  Factoring in marketing generations, and as of today, the noted ages corresponds to Generation X who were born between 1966 and 1980.  I identify as a Gen X’er in addition to my other non-traditional characteristics.  In family life, Generation X were the first generation to be sent to day care centers.  Our parents experienced tripled divorce rates and we were also the original latch key kids.  I spent a lot of time at other people’s homes and am amazed at how the younger generation seemingly had at least one parent to come home to.  As a result of instability in homes, and forced independence, Generation X became the first yuppies where we made more money than previous generations.  We worked hard and played even harder.  Lifestyle brands such as The Sharper Image thrived during this time.  As a result, in classrooms and in teaching, my personal feelings regarding early hours and unpopular projects don’t matter.  We’re here to do a job and do it well.  We also witnessed Black Monday of 1987 and our extreme experience lifestyle changes resulting from the current recession.  As a Generation X’er, I sought stability because of unstable home and work lives.  Also, in most cases, the decision to return to or continue education is a marketing one because Gen X’ers are trying to find a means to earn money.  Thus, I suggest that community colleges and universities consider Generation X needs when developing recruiting and educational plans.

As a Generation X NTS, I am in my second year of my masters.  I am also a teaching assistant with my own classes.  So, I have experienced NTS education both as a teacher and as a student. Currently, I am in a Communication + Aging class where I am a couple of years older than my professor.  I am old.  I am older than half my professors.  One of them is actually from the same high school and graduated one year after me.  Being an older TA has advantages.  I don’t have to hide my age from freshmen who are four-five years younger than me and address myself with a title.  As a GenX’er I want stability so, last minute shifting content, schedules, and deadlines via email and text annoy me.  I’m learning to adjust to the faster pace of the wired babies.  Unlike my Millennial peers, I do not want constant handholding or affirmation.  I am amused by younger concerns, such as love and angst, that I haven’t dealt with in the better part of two decades.  But, these are my peers and this is my existing situation.  So, as an overachieving Gen X/Yuppie, I learn to adjust.

A Letter to Yourself

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

There have been several references in this blog to the “Day Zero Project,” an interactive site that helps you create 101 goals to be accomplished in 1001 days (dayzero.com).  One of the suggested activities is to write a letter to yourself to be opened in 10 years.  What would you put in that letter?

There are many different approaches you could take and questions you could pose.  You could think about where you want to be in 10 years – 2021.  Or, consider what you hope to have accomplished?  Or, describe what things move and inspire you today?  Or, explain how you feel about your life today?

We take snapshots of our lives.  These photos capture one second in time.  A letter to yourself is open-ended in time.  You can reflect on moments and eras  – your lifetime, past, present and/or future.

Unlike a journal, which keeps your thoughts and feelings up-to-date, a letter to yourself is a singular event with the idea of its being opened in a decade.  You get a chance to talk to you!  What will the person in the future know that you do not know now?  In 10 years, what will you have forgotten so that the letter will need to serve as a memory trigger?  How will your feelings have changed?  What goals will you have accomplished?

If you have decided to return to school – for whatever degree or program – in 10 years you not only will be done, but you will be underway using that degree!  Whatever changes you have decided to make now, in 10 years those changes will have been incorporated into you – and, instead of those changes being a part of your future, in 10 years they will be part of your present.

It’s exciting to think about writing the letter.  What will you say?

A New Level of Mastery: Coming Full Circle

(Source:  ”Daily OM” posted on 1.14.11)

The reappearance of a pattern is often a sign that we have come full circle and we are close to a new level of mastery.

Life is a circular journey through our issues and processes, and this is why things that are technically new often seem very familiar. It is also why, whenever we work to release a habit, change a pattern, or overcome a fear, we often encounter that issue one last time, even after we thought we had conquered it. Often, when this happens, we feel defeated or frustrated that after all our hard work we are still dealing with the same problem. However, the reappearance of a pattern, habit, or fear, is often a sign that we have come full circle, and that if we can maintain our resolve through one last test, we will achieve a new level of mastery in our lives.

When we come full circle, there is often the feeling that we have arrived in a familiar place, but that we ourselves are somehow different. We know that we can handle challenges that seemed insurmountable when we began our journey, and there is the feeling that we might be ready to take on a new problem, or some new aspect of the old problem. We feel empowered and courageous to have taken on the challenge of stopping a pattern, releasing a habit, or overcoming a fear, and to have succeeded. At times like these, we deserve a moment of rest and self-congratulation before we move on to the next challenge.

Coming full circle is like stepping into a clearing where, for a moment, we can see where we came from and where we are standing at the same time. Remembering that we will be tested again is important, but it’s also important to pause and take a look at the ground we’ve covered, honoring our courage, our persistence, and our achievement. Then we can begin the next leg of our circular journey with a fuller understanding of where we are coming from.