Friday, February 24, 2012

Choice Evaluation

Last time I blogged I shared an essay that I had written and then spoken about during my senior year of high school. At the end of the essay my teacher has written me a note, and in it she states that having read the essay she wonders what I would consider a good “choice” and recommends perhaps adding that to my essay in any future revision. If I ever did revise the essay further, I can’t seem to find it now... so I’m not sure what my answer would have been then.

But reading that comment now, nearly five years later, makes me wonder, what do I consider to be a good “choice”? How does my answer now, change from the answer that I would have given nearly five years ago?

I am fairly certain that five years ago this question would have baffled me. I would have likely spent hours in front of a blank computer screen trying to rationalize why exactly I was so befuddled. I’m sure I could have come up with vague ideas of what exactly a “good” or “proper” choice would be, but I think I would have a hard time pinpointing my own self proclaimed “good choices”.

I likely would have rambled around the question much like I just did, and eventually walk away without having really answered at all.

But it is a valid question.

For instance, out of high school I attended a community college for two years before transferring to Michigan State University. MSU was always the goal, and it was my “choice” to defer going immediately out of high school in order to forgo at least a portion of the debt that going immediately would incur.

Quite frankly I knew that I could not afford to attend immediately and did not want to be saddled with a ridiculous amount of debt at the end of my education, when there was another path that I could choose that would ultimately lead to the same result.

These were the reasons behind my choice and for me these reasons validated it as a good one at the time, and still do.

But the thing to be aware of here is that every choice ultimately leads to a new one. Or maybe more precisely new opportunities, the choice that I’ve outlined above, driven by financial reasoning, is an honest reflection of why I made the choice I did and why I thought it a good one at the time. However, after having spent that year at MSU I am able to see that choice in an all-new light.

Let’s be clear, I still feel that Michigan State is where I needed to be and it was a good choice, but I feel that the choice to go there in particular allowed me to come to understand something even more important; sometimes the choices that we make are not really the choices we originally believe them to be.

Allow me to explain.

I originally decided that Michigan State was going to be my collegiate goal at some point during my Junior year of high school. In my research of Journalism schools, I uncovered MSU to be one of the top Journalism schools in Michigan. I choose MSU because they were the best, and I believe that you should always strive to for greatness.

Why give 100% when you can strive for 110%?

So, for the approximately four years between deciding MSU was the goal and actually getting accepted and going, I saw it as a good choice because of the prestige I could earn by having gotten my degree there.

Today, and actually for at least the last two years or so, I’ve begun to see deciding on MSU and ultimately going there to have been a good choice because of the experiences that I had while I was there. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, renew my relationship with God and ultimately learn a lot about myself.

It wasn’t just a learning experience, but really a chance to grow and mature and find my footing as the adult that I am and everyday continue to become. Life, after all, is a continual learning experience.

I’m confident that had I not had that year at Michigan State I would not be where I am now in my life, and that would be a shame. Maybe I didn’t actually complete the goal I set out for, which was to graduate from MSU, but that ok because sometimes when we encounter circumstances beyond our control we learn that God has plans larger for us than we could ever imagine for ourselves.

My lack of a degree therefore isn’t a statement to the wrongness of my choices, because the experiences that my choices allowed me to have confirmed that it was the right one.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thoughts on Public Speaking

I was recently talking with someone and the conversation turned to public speaking. The entity of this particular conversation isn’t so important, so much as it allows me to launch into my real purpose for blogging today.

Public speaking is a widely feared activity. There are many would rather do just about anything to get out of standing in front of a crowd of people, be they familiar or strangers, and speak. It is both a persistent and staggeringly paralyzing fear.

I’m sure there is some psychology-based reason for this fear, but quite frankly I am not hosting a lecture on psychology here and so I’ll spare you that conversation.

Moving right along, I don’t fall into the category of people that fear speaking in public. While I do become obscenely terrified in the presence of spiders, I don’t mind getting up in front of a crowd of people. Give me a room full of people as opposed to one itty-bitty spider any day.

Regardless of any of the above ponderings, my true point in writing this evening is that the conversation I originally mentioned has lead to my recalling an essay that I wrote, and later spoke about, my senior year of high school. The essay was written as a creative piece for my Advanced Placement English class, presenting it happened purely by chance.

We were scheduled to have a Senior Academic Awards night, and at the last minute, quite literally a couple of day’s prior, they decided that they wanted to have a student speaker at the event. Naturally they turned to the AP English class. When they pitched the opportunity no one immediately jumped at the chance, which now that I think about it is a bit strange, even stranger though was that I found myself raising my hand and volunteering to speak at the event in a room full of fellow seniors, their parents, and several staff members.

At any rate, this is the piece that I ended up sharing with those at the event:

The following is based on this prompt: What is your favorite word and why?

“Spoken Definition”

Words are exceptionally powerful. While we have all heard some variation of the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, I can guarantee that no matter how many times you repeat it, the saying will never come any closer to the truth. In fact, the things that we say are often more powerful and, depending on the situation, have the capability to do more damage or good than our actions. This is why when speaking we must choose our words carefully; it is also one of the reasons why choice is my favorite word.

Choice is important to me because the ability to choose allows me to control certain aspects of my life, whether it is as simple as what shirt I wear in the morning or something larger, such as my future career. After all, it is the choices that we make that not only determine where we end up, but more importantly define who we are. I rely heavily on my ability to make my own choices in order to establish who I am and to allow myself the opportunity to become the person that I want to be.

The importance of choice also comes into play when I am speaking with other people or trying to express myself in some way. If my words are ill chosen, then the message I am trying to convey is more susceptible to being misconstrued or lost completely. Choice becomes increasingly important when people’s ability to understand where I am coming from and what I am talking about is left hanging in the balance.

Choice is my favorite word because it embodies the idea that I am in control of the direction of my life it is a powerful word that, to me, signifies that my choices define who I am, despite the opinions of others. In another respect, words are powerful and they should be chosen carefully. Word choice, and good choices in general, become increasingly important when I am attempting to convey a particular message. Ultimately, choice is my favorite word, because the choice’s that I make are the largest reflection of who I am, and who I one day wish to become.

What about you? How do you feel about public speaking? Is there a particular word that resonates with you?


If you have, by chance, made it this far, I’d like to let you know that this year’s blogging goal is to blog once a month. I fully intend to hold up to this goal better than I did last years. Please feel free to keep me accountable.