I graduated from the University of Oklahoma more than 39 years ago now.
Someone asked me the other day what I learned in college. I told them that I was considering a blog post about that subject because I thought I had enough perspective now to address it.
My friend laughed. I was serious. He's old enough to understand what I said. So I laughed, too.
That very morning I was privileged to meet some young college students and listen to them talk about their experiences. One was a first year student and the other a junior I think. They both talked about how fearful they were about going to college and how the decision of where and what and how loomed so large in their minds.
To myself I thought I could tell them there would be plenty of other opportunities to screw up their lives other than which college to attend and that on balance the decision of where to go for college would not prove so important in the long term.
But I decided there was no point in letting them know that at this stage in their lives since it is something they will soon find out on their own. No point in unsettling a perfectly good day.
I read a quote the other day that I liked: "As you go through life you are going to have many opportunities to keep your mouth shut. Take advantage of all of them." I don't know the attribution but it's pretty good advice.
My own choice of colleges was pretty easily made actually. The University of Oklahoma was just a few miles away and I could drive there every day before work. That made it the least expensive choice and, therefore, the correct one.
But what did I learn there?
Well, of course, I learned what I studied although honestly there is not very much I remember of any of it.
I think the question though really addresses the "life lessons."
I learned a lot of things actually and some in surprising ways. For instance there is that History of Science course that I took because of some requirement. I didn't want to take it. But really it proved to be one of the best courses because it helped me understand there was a human side to science that my then idealism failed to appreciate.
There were other courses that were forced upon me that I never would have voluntarily pursued. They contributed to one life lesson which I think is that doing some work not of our own choosing is a good thing.
But I think the biggie thing I learned was just how big the world really is. And that there are a lot of people. And all those people are the same but different and there is so much to learn and do and think about.
At the same time though I learned that the specialties were so fabulously complex that the more you learned the more questions were found. One of those bigger on the inside things than the outside. Your degree just means you've managed to open the door.
Life is like that, too. The older you get the more you see but the more you see just makes you understand there is that much more out there to explore.
So that's what I learned from college.