By 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.