It is the beginning of a massive influx of students into Athens and the University. By one count I heard this morning, there are 7,500 new people moving into dorms and apartments and houses around town this week. That's a lot of new energy to contemplate entering a large university in a very small town, and there are all kinds of local news stories about the experience, as well there should be. Young people beginning a new part of their lives - new majors, new friends, new surroundings, new hobbies - brings to mind all manner of hope, possibility, potential, and of course, peril. There cannot be all of this wonderful potential without a downside; there's always the possibility of trouble. And the trouble isn't always bad. Sometimes trouble is merely things not working out exactly like you planned. You might change majors, multiple times. You might start preparing for a career next week that is very different from the one you imagine you are preparing for. Students (and parents): be flexible. You are going to learn a lot; make sure one of them is that you (both) learn to be open to possibility. Here's one example.
In August 2002, Brandon Stanton came to Athens and began studying history at UGA. Things didn't go so well academically, but he went to a community college, then came back to UGA with a renewed sense of purpose and got his history degree. As graduation approached, well, I'll let him pick it up from here:
During my senior year of college, I took out $3,000 in student loans and bet it on Barack Obama to win the presidency. A friend heard about this bet and got me a job trading bonds on the Chicago Board of Trade. I traded for three years. It went really well for awhile. But then it went really bad. Whoops. After I lost my trading job, I decided to move to New York City and take portraits of strangers on the street. Mom wasn’t too happy about that decision, but so far it’s gone pretty well. I’ve taken nearly 5,000 portraits and written 50 stories. And I’ve met some amazing people along the way.
His project, Humans of New York, is one of the most fantastic uses of the internet to date. The portraits and stories he shares are crazy, funny, tender, inspiring, reaffirming. They show us who we are in a way that bundles all of our individual traits together to create a bouquet of humanity. Quite a feat.
So how did Brandon do it? That's not the question. The question is, how can you be open to your possibilities? If you are one of the students moving into this town or one of the thousands of others across the country this month, you're off to great start. So, get started: buckle down and open up. Find the sweet spot between dedication and laziness. Learn everything you can and find out who you are. Oh, and don't lose that dorm key.