Last week, we moved my daughter into her dorm, and she started classes this week as a freshman. I had completely mixed emotions, as, on the one hand, I know that our job as parents is to prepare our children for independence and good citizenship. On the other hand, I didn’t want to let go. On Saturday, parents were invited to the convocation ceremony. The speakers all made interesting comments, but one senior made remarks that I believe should resonate with all of us at any stage in our lives.
This very accomplished senior described feeling overwhelmed and anxious three years ago when she was a freshman. After having the time to reflect on that initial anxiety, she described four questions about which new students might be anxious. But she suggested re-framing those questions by changing just one word.
Instead of "am I meant to be here?" change it to "Who am I meant to be here? What impact do I want to make, and what kind of person do I want to be in this new community? Instead of "will I be happy here?" change it to "Where will I be happy here?" and find a community of students with similar interests. Instead of "What do I want to study?" change it to "How do I want to study?" Incorporate a spirit of curiosity and experimentation into your approach. Finally, instead of "can I do it?" change to "how can I do it?"
My take on this re-framing was that she was telling the students and all of us to change our mindsets from passive to active. We all continue to play a role in deciding who we are going to be and what we are going to do at every age. As I noted above, I believe this mindset shift is appropriate not just for young people entering university but for all of us who face challenges and opportunities throughout our lives.
Take care and stay safe.
Completely Mad: Tom McClean, John Fairfax, and the Epic Race to Row Solo Across the Atlantic by James R. Hansen
In this bracing adventure tale, the story of John Fairfax and Tom McClean are woven together for the first time. Fairfax would set off from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa with his sights on Florida. McClean charted a course from Newfoundland to Ireland.
The two men couldn’t have been more different. John Fairfax was a golden-haired playboy, gambler, whiskey, gun smuggler, and ex-pirate who blamed his boat often, and who brazenly took time off from his goal of reaching America to hop aboard large ships for a drink, a shower, and good food. He courted the press like a modern-day Richard Branson or Elon Musk.
The egoless Tom McClean was an orphan with a tough, Dickensian childhood, who ran off to become a British paratrooper and later joined the SAS (his training rivaled the U.S. Navy Seals). Tom was a purist who loved his boat Silver and never once took time off from rowing to sun himself on a remote beach or jump aboard a cruise ship. After 70 days, he landed on the rocky coast of Ireland to no fanfare and headed straight to the nearest pub.
Though the two men’s remarkable transoceanic journeys seem pulled from a different era, both finished within days of the first landing on the Moon: July 20th, 1969.
Filled with gale-force winds, backbreaking effort, menacing sharks, playful dolphins, awing natural beauty, great mishaps, failed equipment, hyperthermia, near-drowning, the fighting of mental and physical lethargy, creative problem-solving, phantom illusions on the water, and glorious moments of bliss, Completely Mad stands alongside other classics of ocean adventure.