We are at that time of year when students are frantically selecting courses for their upcoming year of university. I love getting to talk with first year students about what courses they want to take, what they hope to do with their degree . . . Best of all, I love the students that come in well prepared and excited for all of the courses. Those students that say, “I can’t choose, there are so many that sound interesting.” When I hear that, I know that that student is going to do well.
On the other hand, there are the few students that have not yet found their passion and some that just don’t seem to want to be here at all. When I ask “what courses are you most excited about taking?” and the response is “whatever course is the easiest,” I think, “Wow, you are in for a lot of lessons in the subject of life.”
I learned those lessons when I was going into my second year of university. A friend of mine, Jeff, was a year behind because he had been diagnosed with cancer and had been going through intensive chemotherapy during what should have been his first year. I spent many days up on the cancer ward visiting Jeff. During my second year, Jeff was able to register for his first year courses and on the days when he was up to it, he would rally all of his energy and go to class. Jeff was told that his diagnosis was terminal and that there was nothing more that they could do for him. Jeff knew that these were the last weeks of his life and his priority was not to go sky-diving and visit exotic lands; all he wanted to do was be a regular 20-year-old and go to his first classes at university. Jeff would have know that he was never going to graduate and yet he was able to see the value and gift that education was and spent his last few weeks learning.
While Jeff was learning about Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus, he was also teaching me an important life-long lesson – Go To Class! It seems un-profound, but really he taught me the importance of taking full advantage of the basic things in life. The best things in life are not those rare moments that are exceptional, but those everyday moments, the routine that we create, the regular ways that we occupy our time and build our life. If we can find inspiration in the everyday, we will be present and engaged in ways that will invariably lead to success and happiness.
Jeff passed away on October 10th of my second year. He only made it to his first month of university. From that moment on, I saw each class and assignment differently. When I started to feel overwhelmed, tired and stressed, I would think of Jeff and it revitalized me. I have always gone to class. It is a simple way that I pay tribute to Jeff’s strength and honour his memory. Although I graduated many years ago, I am committed to life-long learning. Every year I take another course or attend a conference. I happily engage in the routine of my life and am grateful.
As you chose your courses and as the school year draws closer, think of Jeff. When you are too tired, too stressed, too bored, too confused, . . . think of Jeff, pick yourself up and Go To Class.