Tuesday, July 20, 2010
This summer, like many of our incoming first-year students, I’ve been reading this year’s First Year Reading Initiative selection Walden by Henry David Thoreau. As I read, I'm reminded that one of Thoreau's quotes from this book is displayed in my office: ..."if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours" (p. 303 in the edition first year students are reading).
Advancing in the direction of one's dreams - sometimes confidently, sometimes not so self assured - is a common theme, one that has applications for many students I meet. For someone considering a choice of majors, pondering how to come out to a grandparent, thinking about study abroad or career options beyond graduation, deciding if they have met the person with whom they'd like to spend their entire life with, or simply embarking upon the joys and hard work of living authentically, Thoreau's words have provided motivation, courage, and sometimes solace. I once even included the quote in a note of support to a student about to transition to a different gender. It seemed as though Thoreau had written those words especially about this particular student's situation. The idea resonated perfectly, although in fact Thoreau's work was published 150 years before.
A few pages later Thoreau notes another idea, this time one not displayed on a wall in my office, but quoted directly or indirectly - and sometimes demonstrated by the lived experience - of many students. "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away" (p. 305).
As these last summer weeks go by before the start of the new academic year, read, or re-read Thoreau. What wisdom does he share that is of particular usefulness for all students? What words resonate most for LGBT and Allied students? What drummer do you hear? What life have you imagined, and how can you live it?
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