I am lucky that I get to be with young people every day. Everyday that I drive my car or ride my bike onto campus, I am always amazed at the energy on campus.
One of the fundamental questions that I tackle as a student and teacher of sociology is, are we who we are because of our nature, or biology, or of nurture, society? I think one of the many reasons that I love what I do is because I am around young people all day, everyday. This keeps me feeling young, vibrant and as part of a youthful mindset.
Every day I get to be a part of the lives of students who are in “discovery mode.” They are discovering what they like in life, what they want to do for the rest of their lives and most importantly, who they are.
Sometimes this is an uphill battle, but it is more refreshing than what most people my age are going through. Most of them are charged with the not-so-rewarding chores of doing their job to support their children in all that they do. Most I know have middle-school aged kids to get through teenage angst and all that comes with it.
They are also at a stage in their lives where the responsibility of raising a family weighs heavily on them, and they no longer have the luxury of asking themselves the important questions that college-aged students are asking themselves. There is no more time for self-discovery, doing things that bring themselves joy and telling the world to wait for them while they indulge themselves in a nap, a chick-flick or a hike in the foothills.
These middle-aged people work with other adults, who are dealing with the same issues. I imagine the energy is not all positive. Most of my friends are well-educated and have careers that they find fulfilling, but living in the adult world can be an energy suck.
Don’t get me wrong — getting older has its benefits, and I love most of what my life offers me. But it does bring added baggage which is sometimes hard to get rid of.
If you are a student here at CSU, you are part of the most privileged groups of people in the world. You live in a country of affluence, and you are being educated to be an active part of that power structure that can help to change the world for the better.
As tough as things are this time of the semester, realize that you have an extraordinary opportunity to shape who you can become to find happiness and meaning in the world. This does not always mean a job that can earn you fame and fortune, but intrinsic happiness that comes from places of love, community and compassion for all people and all things.
This past decade, I felt like I have lost most of the optimism and idealism that has brought me through four-fifths of my life. As young people, I urge you to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. Don’t stick your head in the sand and ignore the real world of which we are all a part, but position your heart to use your youth for all the good that can be done in the world. We all will become better and younger at heart because of your youthful outlook and actions in life.
Anne Marie Merline is a faculty member in the University Honors Program. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org