Grinding through another semester

Dr. David Smith - Head of Department of Accounting

Dr. David Smith – Head of Department of Accounting

We are at that point in the semester where the enthusiasm for the new school year just might be wearing a little thin. We know Thanksgiving break is out there somewhere, but it seems hidden behind a mountain of exams, assignments and papers. My own good intentions about staying ahead of my deadlines are a distant memory as this article was due an hour ago. I am just putting my head down and grinding through another day.

I am so easily caught up in the problems of the present that I forget these are not the important affairs of my life. Thinking back I remember my preoccupation with work during college. I had to earn money for school and then find a job after graduation. Before my senior year I wrestled with the decision if I should take a couple of weeks off and go backpacking in the Adirondack Mountains. How much was that trip going to cost me, my family wanted to know?

I’ll always remember that the car’s radiator was clogged so we drove from Chicago to New York with the heater on full blast in August to prevent the car from overheating. When the car finally broke down, we were stranded over the weekend in a little town near Lake Placid, N.Y., because the local garage was closed. In fact, the only place that was open was the local tavern. We survived. If you have been on camping trips (or almost any trip) you know that the memories that stay with you are the adversities met and overcome. My job? It was in the high-paying food service industry, but I can’t remember the details. The trip, I will always remember because I was able to break away from my preoccupation with job and invest in myself.

Finding time for ourselves, our families, and our goals, whatever those may be, requires a real commitment. We need to mentally step back and look not at what needs to be done now in the present, but what instead into the future and seeing the direction are we going. Is that where we want to be? Is there an opportunity for doing something really important that is getting lost in our rush to do our work in the present?

Attending a university is one of the few times in our lives that we can just learn about the world and ourselves. We can test different ideas and learn about the thoughts and accomplishments of others who have gone before us. Missouri Southern offers us an incredible opportunity to learn about different countries and cultures with the themed semesters. But the real prizes are the field trips and study abroad opportunities offered by various departments and schools throughout the year. These provide a chance to strike out and really experience a foreign country at a vastly reduced price through grants and financial aid. The School of Business recently had a 13-day trip to China for a cost of $660 beyond tuition. I think even my family would have said yes to that!

I realize that not everyone can go on these trips and that finances are a big factor for many of us. Many of you are non-traditional students with families and other commitments. All I ask is that you do stop and consider: are you working for the present or are you thinking about the future? Our future success often depends on knowing who we are and making choices that reflect that. I know many students work full time and view school as something to get through as quickly as possible so they can get their job after graduation. What kind of job will you get? I would argue that experiencing more of what school has to offer will make your job more meaningful and you might be surprised that your choice of a job will change as you learn about yourself.

As opportunities to travel or really studying something we are passionate about arise, just look up from your present and ask yourself, can I fit that it in? If the answer is no, so be it, but at least you thought about it and it was your decision. If the answer is yes, then wonderful! I just have one more word of advice – check your radiator!