Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Today is opening convocation. The school year is starting. I meet my freshman advisees today -- and what a bunch they are. Looking over their SAT scores and transcripts, they are incredible. Overachievers doesn't begin to reach it and to top it off, they will be in my First Year Seminar class, Einstein in Wonderland: Physics, Philosophy, and Other Nonsense. It's going to be a good semester.

But today, a full four years before graduation, I begin to see their concern about finding a job, a good job, and it makes you sad.

A couple days ago, I was in Dancing Bear, our favorite toy store, picking something up for the shorter of the short people's birthday and got to talking to the owner who used to be a research biologist before starting a business selling cool toys -- virtually no plastic and very few battery operated gadgets, about half of them are the ones you and your parents and grandparents remember from childhood and half are new really neat, interesting games. He was telling me that he worked for years in a lab where no one was happy and as a result he was miserable. But now he hangs out and plays all day. Everyone who leaves his stores is smiling. It's just a fun place with a joyful atmosphere. You could see someone who found his niche. It isn't what he studied in college. But it is what gives him a happy life.

And that is something that I worry that we lose sight of in this culture. You are what you do. You can't leave work at work. If your job is unfulfilling or overly stressful, it will impact your relationships, everything else. But with the economy like it is, folks are thrilled to have any job. The "American Dream" deals with what you have not what you do.

How do I communicate this to students who are worried about student loan debt? Who are concerned about marketability? Who see college as vo-tech training? Who have parents who are stoking these fears?