Dear Students,

back-to-the-future-originalI know that we do not always see eye to eye. Let me be more specific. I know that your current self and I do not always see eye to eye. Your future self and I get along. She comes down to the house for dinner. We skype, g-chat, and talk on the phone. We reinforce each other.

It is not just me. Your current self does not always see eye to eye with your future self either. Indeed, you two can be at odds quite often. You two have different priorities. And, your interests are not always aligned. So, from the viewpoint of your future self, your current self can make some less than optimal decisions and miss out on some life-enhancing opportunities.

Now, this would not be such a big issue if you two could communicate. Alas, the fabric of time is fragile. Indeed, there are temporal prime directives. Your future self is not allowed to go back in time and talk to your current self. If she did, the damage to the space-time continuum would be unimaginable. So, your future self lacks a voice. She lacks representation. And, that is where I come in. I represent her interests. I am her agent.

It is my job to inform you that there exists a future in which you are the one who gives us goose-bump moments with your music, your words, your art, your selfless acts, and your leadership. There is a reality in which it is your work that we talk about. It is your work that we share with others. It is you that we brag about knowing. Not because you are famous. You may be. No, we brag about knowing you because you are limited, imperfect and scared as hell. But, you show up anyway. You walk out onto the stage. You stand before us and you share your gifts with us. You do not hide. You risk it. You show us what it means to be alive. You make us want to be better. You inspire us.

It is also my job to tell you that you already have the ideas you need to move us. You already have the creativity. You already have the vision. Everything you need is already inside of you. It always has been. You only need to give yourself the permission to share it with the rest of us.

But, here is the rub. Lending the least bit of credence to the idea that you have something to give the world will unleash an unimaginable internal struggle. Internal voices of dissent will reinforce your worst fears. A fog of self-doubt, uncertainty and insecurity will descend upon you. Your demons will rise up. They will kick sand in your eyes. They will want to blind you. They do not want you to see your potential. They fear your power. They will want to keep you blurry-eyed.

You’re going to feel lost. You’re going to feel hopeless. You’re going to want to retreat. You’re going want exit the arena, sit on the sidelines and watch others do what you want to be doing. You’re going to want to wait for an external stamp of approval. Don’t.

As a representative of your future self, I am here to tell you that this is the moment. This is the test. This is the crucible. This is where victory resides. This is where you win. It is in this moment that you claim your future. Step through the fog.

I know. It goes against your instincts. I know. It is scary. I know. You do not know what is going to happen. I am here. It will be all right. You can do this. I need you to do this. It is the reason I exist. It is why I am in the classroom. I want a life of consequence.

Anyway, I am answerable to your future self. And, one of my worst fears is sitting down for coffee with a former student who looks me in the eye and says “I wish you would have pushed me harder.”

So, I will not to let up. No matter how much you protest, no matter how persuasive your excuses, and regardless of your rationalizations, I have been given explicit instructions to challenge, push, and ask for more than you think you are able to give.

All I ask is that you give me at least three years (possibly five) after graduation before you pass judgment on my pedagogy.

Love,

Dr H and Your Future Self

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)

One Response to “Dear Students,

  • To say it with Chuang Tsu:

    ‘The purpose of a fishtrap is to catch fish, and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.’

    In other words: carry on and do not mind what you just said. It is your ideas carried forward by them, that matter. Concentrate on them and you’ll be heading towards (realizing) your future( self)

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