PETER DAHL, SPORTS EDITOR
I suppose it only makes senses that I start this reflection with a sports anecdote.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichik has seen many of his assistants go on to head coaching jobs. In their final meeting together, as they share a last handshake, he tells them all the same thing:
“Learn from your time here.”
That is the thing that anyone must take from a St. Norbert College experience. Learn from your time here. Perhaps that sounds too simple to you, but, above all else, learning to learn has been the number-one thing that I have, well, learned during my undergraduate education.
Normally, this is the sort of thing that we might embrace retrospectively. Most people will reflect on an experience, especially a negative experience, and learn from their mistakes. It’s a necessity of human survival and certainly human progress. But looking back on something when all is said and done is not the type of learning that will really benefit us. Instead, learning is a daily thing that we must do, no matter our given circumstances.
It is this learning process that has so changed me in my time at St. Norbert. Coming in as a scared Bergie, I thought I would do my time at college, make a few friends, get a degree and then go start life for real as a sports journalist, hopefully learning the skills necessary for that field of work along the way.
I didn’t know that constant exposure to women’s and gender studies would erode my male chauvinism into feminism. I didn’t know that Black Lives Matter would make racial injustice one of my heart’s greatest concerns. I didn’t know I would make leaps and bounds in my Christian faith by processing serious challenges to it. I didn’t know my far right-wing ideals and my homophobia would be incinerated. I didn’t know I would fall in love only to find I hadn’t the foggiest idea what love really was. I didn’t know how much there was I didn’t understand, and it was after I accepted that I didn’t have all the answers that I really started to find them. What I learned was not what I thought I would learn.
I’ve learned, among other things, that I don’t want to be a sports journalist and that Charles Dickens is dope (dope, not a dope).
I didn’t learn these things by taking one last look back at my career and assessing my journey (because, seriously, I would be an existential puddle of ruin right now if I had that many epiphanies all while writing this). Rather, I learned these things by continuously interacting with my surroundings. Coming into college I would have bristled at the mention of feminism, but, by having that thing called an “open mind,” I magically learned to listen and, you know, learn.
Because you do not know what today will bring, and you do not know what lessons life will ask you to learn. Tomorrow might bring good, or it could just as easily bring bad. Learn anyway.
This means you have to wake up. Perhaps literally, for some of you, but even for us early risers it behooves us to be tuned into our lives each day rather than coasting around on auto-pilot. If you’re spending all this time and money to mess around for four years and come out on the other side with a degree, you’re doing it wrong. Or, at the very least, you’re not doing it right. Your time at St. Norbert will present you with all sorts of opportunities to learn in and out of the classroom, but if you ignore them, you’re going to miss out not only on chances to learn but also the opportunity to learn how to be a learner.
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Well, they said I could go for like a thousand words on this thing, but I think I’ll adhere to the wisdom of that esteemed group of philosophers known as the Wu-Tang Clan: “Yo, too many songs, weak rhymes that’s mad long/Make it brief son, half short and twice strong.”
Forth now, and fear no darkness.