3 things i learned in college...

i was with  a group of college students yesterday (which is nothing new, i am with a group of college students EVERY day) and one of them asked me what i learned in college that i use everyday in my life. i had to think for a minute, but i came up with three things that i learned at my dear alma mater, furman university in greenvile, sc.) that shape my life and thoughts on a daily basis. 

only one of the things came from a class in my major and the other two came from electives that i took (as my dad said to me as he looked over my list of classes for a semester,  “lea, you put the liberal in liberal arts”).

#1. from an education class that was in my major...

this lesson begins as my roommate, fellow education major and coconspirator in most crimes, dina, and i were late to class one day (ok so we were late to class on a frequent basis. hey, we were coconspirators in crimes, we were very busy). as we walked into class, our professor dr. blazer (who we LOVED and who we thought was rather fond of us until this little incident) asked in a loud and irritated voice, “WHY did you girls CHOOSE to be late to class?” 

we attempted to defend ourselves with a plethora of excuses that we felt presented overwhelming proof that we could bear NO responsibility whatsoever for our lateness (the universe was to blame being the main theme of our diatribe). dr. blazer maintained that it was OUR CHOICE to be late and that we needed to CHOOSE to be on time for this day into the future or their would be dire consequences (insert dire consequences music here). 

soooo, like the good southern baptist girls we were (no comment from anyone on that please, this is MY story), we were on time the following day. only to discover that there was NO one in the classroom. however there was a note on the board saying that class was moved to another room. by the time we reached the other room, guess what... we were late. 

we attempted to again justify our lateness with the “we didn’t know the class was moved and so this is certainly NOT our fault this time” speech full of passion and righteousness. to this valiant effort dr. blazer calmly said, “it was still your choice. if you had chosen to be on time yesterday, you would have known that we were moving class today. your lateness today was part of the choices you made yesterday.” 

well, this seemed totally unfair and unkind to us (at the time) and we couldn’t believe that a teacher who we thought cared about us would judge us in this way. but i can not tell you how many times a week, that speech comes back to me as i realize how right dr. blazer was and how grateful i am that she tried to teach us that lesson. i use her very words with my own children all the time as i attempt to teach them that our choices MATTER and our choices have consequences. some consequences are immediate (the late to class that day) and some come later and with unforeseen results (late to class the next day). 

dr. blazer was kind and wise and she was right. it was my choice to be late that day and i hope that she has forgiven me (as for dina, she will have to make her own apology, if she so CHOOSES). 

#2 from the ending of “taming of the shrew”

i did foreign study my junior year at furman and studied shakespearean literature (putting the liberal in liberal arts again- thanks dad). while we were discussing the play “the taming of the shrew”, the professor from stratford, uk was explaining how the final speech by katherine (the shrew that is “tamed”) can end the play on a depressing note (she is beaten down and bested by her husband) or a triumphant note (it is all a joke and she has triumphed and made a great marriage). the theme of the whole play can be changed by how the lines are read. 

i remember writing in my notebook in nice swirly letters “her attitude can determine if it is tragedy or triumph”. and then i looked at what i had written and thought that i certainly was a genius and would be touring the country soon with speaking engagements galore based on my incredible insight at 20 years of age. ok, so i was a bit overdramatic even at that age... 

but nevertheless, it is something that has influenced my life. no matter the hand i am dealt (the lines of the play that are given to me), i CHOOSE the way that i say them (linked to my dr. blazer story on that one, didn’t i? you are reconsidering the genius part, aren’t you?). everyone can leave the theater of LEA depressed or in a great mood. i like the latter of the endings. i also wished everyone paid $$$$ to enter the theater of LEA to hear my lecture on “shakespeare changed my life”, but that is not happening.

#3 from photography class

let me just start by suggesting that EVERYONE should take a photography class! the skills that i learned in that class i use all of the time to document my family and life and i am so glad that i ventured into the visual and creative arts arena by taking this class. i LOVE taking pictures and i LOVE LOVE LOVE taking good pictures.  in this photography  class, i learned how to take good pictures and after i tell you the secret, i guess you really won’t need to take photography class, so ignore the previous caveat about EVERYONE taking photography class and change it to EVERYONE should read my blog (and send me $$$ to see my show at the theater of LEA). 

here is the big secret and life lesson from furman photography class 101. 


in class the professor showed us some great pictures from LIFE magazine and told us how many shots each photographer had taken that month. it was in the hundreds and they had gotten only that ONE photograph published. she said that if we got ONE good shot out of a roll of film (24 pictures for those of you who never shot film), then we were doing much better than those professionals. “if you don’t take good pictures, keep shooting. you will get a good one eventually”, was her advice to us novice photographers. and she was right (and thank goodness for my digital camera and my 1000 shots per card). 

so i keep shooting, i keep taking pictures. i keep writing. i keep reading. i keep getting up when the alarm goes off.  i keep telling my 10 year old son to brush his teeth every morning and every night. i keep telling my teenage daughter that she is so beautiful. i keep telling my 8 year old that she is my baby. i keep telling my husband that i love him more today that when i married him 17 years ago. i  keep telling myself that God loves me and that He forgives my 999 bad shots everyday and that He smiles at the 1 time i get it right. 

because of my furman education i know that i have to CHOOSE whether this all is a comedy or a tragedy and i know to keep shooting. i hope to leave you laughing. i hope to leave behind one good shot to all of the bad ones. and i hope that you learned some lessons in college or will learn some lessons in college. thank you furman and go paladins...