I was speaking with one of my former students a few weeks ago who has gone on to college now. Its always interesting to speak to my students at the age of 18 and 19 because there’s a level of maturity that happens that is great. For me, sometimes I still see them as 14-year-olds, so I’m always amazed at how much they learn from the time they leave me to the time they graduate. This student was talking about how difficult college is, not because of the work but because of the way her teachers have class set up. She said, “Dr. G., you need to come teach college. Some of these people are just here for a check, and they don’t show up, and they just don’t get US.” I started laughing, and asked her what she meant by that. She said, “Sometimes, they don’t even show up for class, but we’re still supposed to learn about what’s on the syllabus and that’s not really fair because they haven’t taught it. And then, when we explain things, they act like they don’t understand us, and we don’t really get some of the examples they use because they are kind of disconnected from what young people like.” Disconnected from what young people like stood out to me for some reason, but I’ll continue so I don’t lose the point of this story.
I thought about this, and I told her something my grandmother told me a long time ago. Grandma said, “Junior, when it comes to life, you have to develop a plan and remember the lessons that you learn from people because they’ll help you figure things out. A lot of what you learn about life won’t come from the good things, but the biggest lessons you learn will come from the negative stuff- the times people don’t treat you right, the times you feel like things should go one way but go another, the times you feel like you’re all alone, and most of all the times when you feel like you are at wits end.” I explained to her that she’d gone through 13 years of schooling already. She’d had great teachers. She’d built relationships with those teachers, and her teachers were able to figure out how she learned best, but she also was able to figure out how she learned best. I asked her how that could apply to her current situation. She said, “I guess I need to figure out what ya’ll did for me and do that for myself.” I responded, “That would be the remembering the lessons part. What about the plan part?” She said, “Dr. G. I gotcha. You so smart.” I replied, “Are. You are so smart.” She started laughing and said, “See. Here you go again with that!” It was that simple. We have to engage with our young people, whether it be our kids, nephews, former students, neighbors, etc. because there are lessons to learn with every encounter.
I tell the story because a lot of times we have the tools we need to be successful. They’ve been given to us, but we hold ourselves back because we become afraid that we may be overstepping our boundaries, or we may not be reflective enough to learn the lessons that we were intended to learn. Perhaps, we have developed a plan, but we don’t know how to execute it because we haven’t remembered the lessons we’ve learned along the way. Perhaps, the opposite is the case. Whatever the situation, one can’t work without the other. At a certain point in our lives, we have to become reflective individuals so we can move forward. Otherwise, we may become stagnant. In reflecting on my conversation with my former student, I started to look at all the plans that I have for my life, and I began to analyze how all of those things work together and are working together. This type of reflection helps to establish purpose, which is an important step for everyone at the top of a new year. What’s your purpose this year? Have you developed a plan for the goals you want to accomplish? Have you remembered the lessons that you learned in the previous year? How will those lessons have an impact on the things you do this year? The answers to those questions may be the difference between a successful year or a repeat of an unsuccessful one.
2018 looks promising, but then again every year does in January. It’s still not too late to develop a plan along with the steps to execute that plan. What lessons have you learned from the mistakes you’ve made? What lessons have you learned from those encounters you initially felt should have been avoided? How will you apply those things and shift them to help you in your journey this year? I attest that this year will be a Proverbs 3:5-6 year for me. Anything else would be uncivilized.