Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Watershed Moments - Never Quit

In her book, "Watershed Moments", Gari Meacham says, "A watershed moment is a turning point brought on by circumstances that stop us in our tracks. Some call it epiphany. A moment when everything changes. A point in time when nothing will ever be the same. Like a compass that provides direction, these are the moments that move us to new ways of thinking, relating, discerning and accepting life's challenges." In this series we will consider some of my "watershed moments" some will apply to farming and some are just life.

We went to Iowa State last weekend with Jenna and Reed. Jenna, a senior this year, is considering a double major in Biomedical Engineering and Music as a stepping stone to medical school. She spent Friday night and Saturday with the Society of Women Engineers listening intently to presentations from all the various engineering departments (I think they have about 25 different engineering degrees these days.) Reed and I did a whirl wind tour of the engineering buildings and ended up in the library. I'm an Iowa State Graduate so it was interesting to see what they'd done with the place over the last 30 years.

Going to college at Iowa State was a tremendous "watershed moment" for me and here is why. I was a very good student in high school. I went to high school in a very small and very rural small town. My class was the biggest ever and topped out at a grand total of 42 students. Just to give you an idea, my brothers class 5 years later was 28. We got a very good basic education, but school just wasn't very challenging so I didn't have to study very much to do real well. So when I got to ISU I  had to learn study habits and it was very challenging. I finally got to know what it meant to "drink from a fire hose". I was getting B's and a few C's for the first time in my life. This just wasn't acceptable to me, so what to do?

I sought wisdom and council from older students, from my guidance counselor and from my campus pastor. They all thought I was taking a pretty heavy load (18 credits) for a new freshman and they were challenging classes (physics, chemistry, calculus...). They said I could drop a class and retake it later. This would be better for my grade point, but there was a problem with this strategy. If I got  out of sequence with my courses this could mean it would take an extra semester or even an extra year to graduate. I was paying for this myself and I just couldn't imagine paying for an extra year unnessarily. Also, 18 credits was a lot better deal cost wise than 12 or 15 credits.

So with a few C's at mid terms I just buckled down and went to work. While other student were partying Friday and Saturday night I was doing home work and studying. I spent 100% of my "free time" my freshman year at the library. I still love a good library, there is nothing like the library at a Land Grant University and my view was the cost of tuition was worth it just to have access to the library.

Slowly but surely I was able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and dig out of the hole I was in at midterms. By the grace of God, I didn't get any C's, but a few classes had to be close. That was a real humbling experience, but when the dust cleared I figured maybe I could do this after all. It was through shear persistence and determination that I learned the lesson to never let-up, never back off, never relax in the crunch times and never ever quit.

I went on to graduate in the top 25% of my class. When it came time to interview for jobs my senior year, I told the interviewer the story of the student from the little rural school. He did the best he could the first semester, toughed it out, and had no where to go but up. I improved every single semester. I knew how to hang in there, I knew how to get the job done, I knew how to trust in myself and not be overly anxious about the future.

I graduated in four years but during a recession and many of my peers didn't have a job offer at graduation. The persistent farm boy from a little rural community had six job offers.

Better than any job offer was the life lesson to "never quit".


I also, promised myself that my children would have the best possible education. They would be encouraged to take as much math and science at they possibly could in High School. So they would be better prepared for college. They have and they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment