A Professor’s Advice

I want to write this all down before I forget it:

Today in class, after my professor finished lecturing, he went on a tangent – one that I both appreciated and needed to hear. As a bit of background, this man was a really good consultant for many years in industry before he turned to teaching. Not only is he one of the most highly respected professors in our department, he also seems to really excel at life. He’s one of the top senseis of shorin-ryu karate in the area. He’s well-traveled, has a great appreciation for food and wine, and has acquired a huge range of knowledge. He’s probably in his mid-sixties but is in top physical shape and just gives off an air of superiority, but not in a condescending or arrogant way.

Anyway, I’ve had this inventory controls class with him this quarter, one which I seem to have a love-hate relationship with. The last lecture was today, and ten minutes before class, this beast of a man turns very philosophical on us and starts giving us advice – not just on being good engineers, but on how to live a good life. “Keep learning,” he said. “Study languages. Travel the world. Expand your knowledge any way you can. Be humble, and work to motivate others. Strive to be a good communicator. And don’t be wishy-washy – know who you are and don’t let others control you.”

The sad thing is, I don’t think very many people were listening. Or rather, they weren’t really paying attention to what he was saying. These are the words that this man – one which I really look up to and (in some odd way)┬ástrive to be like in the future – lives by. I hope to be as knowledgeable and well-liked and respected as he is when I’m his age – hopefully not quite as intimidating as I find him, but I digress. So why not listen to him? I feel like these are things that I already hope to do: I want to learn Italian. I want to experience the world. I want to keep learning and give back to society. So to hear these desires reinforced… it was kind of cool.

And his advice to stand up for myself: that one hit me the hardest. I know who I am, and I really do need to take a stand with that. I need to be me and to not let others step all over me while doing so. I can be timid when it comes to my opinions, so this is definitely something I need to work on. But I also know that as hard as it is for me now, I can improve it, and by improving it, I can become a better person.

At the end he said that he hopes that this might mean something to some of us, if only a couple. I think most of the class thought he was crazy for talking about all of this. But it did mean something to me. So thank you, Dr. P. I hope you feel that your time wasn’t wasted with us.

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The Country Music Bug has bitten me.

Have I posted about this before? I feel like I have… anyway… This past year country music has slowly but surely seized my heart. It started as almost an annoyance. My hometown’s (and family’s favorite) classical radio station jumped ship a few years ago and was picked up by a country station. My family never got around to changing the radio presets in our car; for a while we just ignored it – I knew not to press “6” and when I did, I’d scroll through to another alternative rock station. But slowly over time my mom started listening to it and got hooked. Around a year ago she asked me to download all the songs she enjoyed, which she had so diligently written down on a scrap of paper she kept in the car, and make her a “tape” (as she affectionately and intentionally calls CDs). I rolled my eyes and put it off for a while, then decided – finally – to make her this stupid CD so I’d stop hearing about it.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I gave her the CDs when she and my dad drove up to pick me up for spring break last year, and we listened to them all the way home. On first listen, they gave me a headache, but once I looked past the twang and images of cowboys they’d bring to mind, I saw what my mom saw in them: wonderful, well-written lyrics. Some are sweet, some are hilarious, some will seriously make you cry. But all of the songs my mom had me download had a story to them, and (prepare for the sap, dear readers) those stories touched my heart.

And now it’s all I listen to.

I can’t get these songs out of my head. I listen to Toby Keith describe his ever-patriotic dad and Blake Shelton thank God for his wife. I hear Martina McBride tell the story of a husband whose love would pull his wife through her cancer treatment. I listen to Taylor Swift describe her childhood and how much she loves her mom, oddly similar to the way I grew up and my own feelings. These songs are so full of life that sometimes I don’t know what to do about it. Seriously, it’s very difficult to turn them off, or even to hear one in passing and not say, “Oh, I really like this song.”

I do miss my “other” music, and it still captures me. Though now I have to admit that I have to work at listening to it: my go-to music is country. My playlist is always open on iTunes, and I feel like I’m always itching to hear one of its songs. I especially missed country while I was over in Europe, of all places – I couldn’t stop listening to The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” and Tim McGraw’s “Southern Voice” (an absolutely hysterical song, by the way – such great memories are associated with it).

Now I really want to visit the South, eat its food, drink its mint juleps, and sit on the front porch listening to country music.