Transitions

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collegeBy Rob White

This week is a significant week in the White household. My oldest is starting as a freshman at Chico State, and this is the week to move him in to the on-campus dorms. So tomorrow we will pack everything he needs for the year in to my car and head out.

This life event has caused me to reflect a lot this week. I’ve been thinking back to my first day at Chico, back in the late 80s, and I can vividly remember my parents pulling up to my dorm. It was a big turning point for all of us in my family. I was the first person on either side of my family to go to college, as far back as anyone knew or could remember. That’s at least five generations. My sister was sad and angry. My mom was nervous and worried. And my dad was stoic.

 

What has been most compelling while I reflect on my time at college is that Chico was a major turning point in my life. I suspect many people feel this way. For me, it was the first time I had been able to freely make my own decisions and to challenge my political and religious beliefs unabashedly. I went from trying to avoid math and science at all costs to ultimately becoming a geologist. And my core beliefs and value system were stretched and challenged in ways that I would never have thought possible. I think I am a better person because of the time at Chico.

I learned a lot in those four years, and I gained a lot while crafting a perspective that continues with me to this day.  See, up until that period I hadn’t spent much time concerned with having a holistic world view. I was raised a fundamentalist and in my corner of the world I hadn’t spent much time thinking about how my immediate actions caused impacts, sometimes half a world away. I didn’t pay much attention to how my consumer choices had specific outcomes, whether I wanted to be cognizant of them or not.

One of my early professors best put it this way: we all need to have a “sense of place”. It was groundbreaking for me to consider how I fit in the world and how my actions and choices have outcomes. Sometimes these are immediately obvious and sometimes these are never known. And changing my own internal drivers to adopt having a sense of place and becoming aware of my actions as they relate to others caused me to make major changes in my life. I became a better person… more caring, more involved, more aware. I radically transitioned from a very self-involved perspective over to one that takes my surroundings in to account.

This wasn’t without some strife in my parent’s world. I challenged their world views, sometimes not very tactfully. It was a lot like having four years of major earthquakes as the tectonic plates of our lives shifted around and rearranged the face of our relationship. And then many years of minor quakes as we continued to settle in to our new adult interactions.

Why do I bring this up? Because these times of major transition in our lives can be difficult. They often cause a myriad of feelings… like stress, uncertainty, mistrust or negativity. I imagine these are normal feelings. I felt them in college. I am sure many of you also felt some of them when you had your college experiences or at some other major inflection point in your own personal journey. And these times of personal stretching and individual change probably had similar impacts on you as they did on me. They probably caused you to take stock in your own personal life and to make some changes.

I think we as a community are a lot like that teenager going off to college. We are at an inflection point and are wrestling with some really big life changes. Things like increasing jobs, housing choices, public amenities, and the need for sustainable revenue sources. There will be decisions made by the community, and I am sure there will be some that will be positive milestones and some that will be considered mistakes. In some cases, there will be missed opportunities (hopefully you are thinking of Bayer). Transitions are hard. They cause us to think back on our lives and try to make the best choices for the future.

One thing is absolutely, 100% guaranteed. Change will happen, whether by us or to us. No matter what decisions we make as a community, whether ultimately positive or negative, there will be changes. In some cases, we will not make decisions and the changes will be uncontrolled and forced upon us. But one fact is unmitigatable – the world around us will change, even if we choose not to participate. And this will have impacts on us that cause us to be reactive instead of proactive.

It is my sincere hope that as we observe the starting point in so many students lives coming to UCD this fall that we will reflect on our own transitions as a community. These changes come with a price, and it’s not always a comfortable transition. But with some community collaboration and recognition of our place in the world, I am confident that a positive transition is in our future.

As always, you thoughts and comments are welcome. My email is rwhite@cityofdavis.org.

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9 thoughts on “Transitions”

  1. JustSaying

    I really enjoyed this memoir on your college years. Your reflections about the impacts on your family and the way your Chico State experience opened up your life are inspiring.

    I also wish that Davisites might have a similar positive outlook on potential benefits of planning changes in our community. I’m afraid, however, that our situation is more analogous to attempts to force grouchy Grandpa off to Woodland Community College in an attempt to get him quit the counter-productive, deeply ingrained habits he’s developed over 70 years.

    But, as they say, hope springs eternal.

  2. SouthofDavis

    Rob wrote:

    > This week is a significant week in the White household.
    > My oldest is starting as a freshman at Chico State

    Congratulations of getting your first kid out of the house.

    > I was the first person on either side of my family to go to college,
    > as far back as anyone knew or could remember.

    I was also the first in my family to go to college (and we didn’t have to go far back to be sure of this since all four grandparents left poverty in Europe in the hope of a better life in America).

    > For me, it was the first time I had been able to freely make my own
    > decisions and to challenge my political and religious beliefs unabashedly.

    Over the years I have been working with the children and grandchildren of recent immigrants trying to help them make the move in to the middle class despite the fact that it is a lot harder to move in to the middle class today as it was 80 years ago when my two grandfathers (like many other recent European immigrants) were making ~$1,000/year each as laborers were able to buy their own homes in San Francisco for ~$3,000 (a union laborer today makes ~$50K a year, but you can’t buy a home in SF for $150K and the modest homes my two grandfathers bought in the 1930’s would today sell today for $1mm to $1.5mm).

    A couple words of advice for you and your son are to remember that back when my grandparents came to America only about 3% of Americans had college degrees and when we were in college in the 80’s about 20% of Americans had a bachelor’s degree or higher, while today close to 1/3 of all American’s have a college degree (and about 1/3 of Americans under 30 are still living with their parents). Your son’s life will be easier if he gets his undergrad degree from Stanford, Cal or UCD (in that order) and it is wise to plan to do well at Chico and transfer as a junior. Tell him not to jump in to things as a freshman since you want to have the time to figure how things work and get good grades (not have guys pouring beer on you as you do pushups since you got caught in the library without your pledge pin).

  3. Davis Progressive

    “I think we as a community are a lot like that teenager going off to college. We are at an inflection point and are wrestling with some really big life changes.”

    it’s an interesting analogy but i think we’re more like you than your son. your kids leaving your house. you’re getting older. you have to figure out the next stage of your life. that’s our community right now.

  4. Davis Progressive

    one point i have been thinking about a lot is a mr. toad comment that people who oppose growth are trying to keep the undesirables out of the community. i grew up in new york. i lived there until i went to college and eventually landed in davis. i live in davis not because i have a problem with anyone but because i didn’t like the fast-paced life of the bigger cities. i like a smaller town, less bustle, less noise. i’ve fought to protect that way of life. it’s not for everyone. i work in sac, but i wouldn’t want to live there. it’s just not for me.

    now can we develop business and other things here? sure, as long as we respect people make lifestyle choices when they moved here and not presume that those choices are based on prejudice or trying to keep others out.

  5. eagle eye

    I hope it all turns out well for your son. There’s an abundance and tolerance for alcohol and drugs in Chico far greater than on other campuses.

  6. Don Shor

    Congratulations on launching one child!
    I remember the day I pulled in to Davis to move into the dorms. It was a heat wave, they were burning off the rice fields, and harvesting alfalfa. The town smelled basically like a bad rock concert.
    Our dinner choice was pretty easy because there were only four restaurants in town: Sambo’s, Honorable Gee’s, Giant Hamburger, and Straw Hat Pizza.
    Fifth Street ended at the (future site of the) post office.
    Stonegate was under construction.
    If you wanted liquor, you had to go to L&M or Jake’s on the edge of town.
    For shopping you went to Woodland. For good Mexican food you went to Dixon.
    Since I moved here I’ve watched as each of our cities here, west of the causeway, has grown rapidly in spurts, each in a different way. Each has absorbed that growth with different consequences. Davis, in the late 1980’s, was the fastest-growing town in Yolo County. Then the other cities caught up in the 1990’s and 2000’s.
    I believe the way Davis has grown reflects the values of the citizens. I hope those who live in nearby communities feel the same way, but I don’t think they have as active participation in deciding how their communities grow. For that reason, I think Davis has been better able to preserve its character.

  7. Matt Williams

    Congratulations Rob, and congratulations to your son and wife. Often in life transitions are forced on us. The one you and your family are going through is one you collectively have chosen.

    In many ways Davis is struggling with a transition that is being forced on us. We are a whole lot like one of the Silicon Valley employees whose idyllic life within a tech start-up suddenly came to an end when the IT Bubble burst. We have a robust resume, full of sparkling accomplishments and tons of educational achievements, but the value of our stock options has plummeted and our expenses now significantly exceeds our income.

    The question we face is whether we focus on how our considerable skills translate in a new job market, or focus on ratcheting back our life style and live for the rest of our life off a combination of our accumulated savings and some form of underemployment.

    Transitions.

    Indeed.

  8. Frankly

    Well done Mr. White. I like you style!

    [i]Your son’s life will be easier if he gets his undergrad degree from Stanford, Cal or UCD (in that order) and it is wise to plan to do well at Chico and transfer as a junior.[/I]

    SOD, I’m sorry but this smacks of some biased academic elitism. You might talk to actual hiring managers to confirm your views on this. And you also should do the math. A Standard undergraduate degree, including the cost to live in Palo Alto, will run an unsubsidized $65k per year versus about $18k for Chico State. That means the Stanford undergraduate degree will cost $188k more than the same at Chico. All things being equal with the student, there is not much justification for paying that additional $188k in terms of education value. Now, certainly it might be worth it if your ego is all wrapped up in the assumed prestige of the school you attended. Or more likely, the ego of the parent is all wrapped up in the assumed prestige of the school that his/her little darling attends.

    Go here [url]http://www.payscale.com/college-selector[/url] to check it out.

    A general business bachelors degree from Stanford pays a median $58,200 per year. The same from Chico pays $45,900. Let’s drop the point that many of these Stanford grads are working in Silicon Valley were the cost of living is mega high, how many years making that additional $12,300 will it take to pay off that $188,000 added education cost? Don’t forget to do this calculation using present value of that $188,000.

    You actually hit on a point that makes Mr. White’s approach a much more intelligent one for selecting a school for his son. The fact is that a bachelors degrees is the new high school diploma. I would in fact suggest that parents send their kids to community college while also having them work to save money, and then have them transfer to a four year school to complete their bachelors. The next step should be:

    – Start a career.
    – Start working and then get a masters.
    – Go get a masters and then start a career.

    Where do you get your masters?

    I would consider sending my son to something like London Business School to get his MBA with all that money I saved resisting the temptation to boost my and his ego on a mega-expensive undergraduate degree where he majored in learning how to drink, smoke pot and chase girls.

  9. Frankly

    [i]The question we face is whether we focus on how our considerable skills translate in a new job market, or focus on ratcheting back our life style and live for the rest of our life off a combination of our accumulated savings and some form of underemployment.[/i]

    I agree with this.

    But, other than those merchants in town blocking competition, I also, think there is a sort of filtering that has gone on with respect to the personalities of the people that end up living here.

    Read Virginia Postrel’s book [I][b]”The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress “[/b][/I] for some help understanding this point. She contrast “dynamists” and “stasis” as groups having either as a personality trait.

    [b]Stasism[/b] she defines as: “a philosophy that favors top-down control and regulation and is marked by desire to maintain the present state of affairs”.

    I see it clearly with my friends, my coworkers and employees, my board members, groups, teams, my family members… some people are made nervous by the speed of change. They develop anxiety that they may not be able to keep up and will be left behind or left out… that they cannot control it… that chaos will ensue. They crave order and control. They want to rely on a sense of same that also gives them a greater sense of stability. They may be smart enough to recognize that by blocking change they might be causing longer-term harm; but abstract fear of future problems does not trump their immediate anxiety of change impacts.

    One way to help these people overcome their personality challenges related to change, is to help them visualize a future state so that it becomes a more tangible consideration. The fear of change is remedies by eliminating more of the unknowns. Because the fear of change is really the fear of the unknown.

    There are some of us that are more wired to get excited about change. It is a glass-half-full view of change… where there is probability that the unknowns include opportunities that can be leveraged. But some of us will be a bit reckless in pursuit of change. So, we need our change-averse brothers to work with us and optimize or visualization and planning processes.

    The problem Davis has is that we have had many more change averse stasis people than we have dynamists. Rob White is a dynamist. My belief is that times have changed with respect to young people due to the advance of technology, where even those wired with a greater tendency toward change aversion are more accepting of change because they have been bombarded with it throughout their young lives.

    I think times have changed in Davis with older change-averse folks digging in their heels, and a greater population of young dynamists living among them. My hope is that the dynamists take charge and help the older change-averse folks better understand the vision for change, and include all the parameters that give them a sense that we are controlling our change and growth so that they are make less anxious about it.

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