From the Director
Have you ever had a moment that you wished you could have a “do over?” Maybe it was something that you said, that came out the wrong way, or hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe it was a test you bombed because you hadn’t prepared for it well. Maybe it was a relationship, where you gave too little or too much. Maybe it was an embarrassing comment or photo you made shared on social media… now forever a part of your digital footprint. Or maybe it is wondering how you spent the weekend on Sunday night when you had so much to do and accomplished none of it. The idea of a do-over may sound appealing for even longer stretches of time in your life… like your first couple years of college. Maybe if only you had you had done things differently, you would be in an altogether different place today.
Regret even in small doses can be a pretty powerful thing that takes up way too much time and energy. It is the kind of thing that keeps you awake when you should be sleeping and distracted when you should be doing everything else. Letting go of the past mistakes is a skill we all need to master. Some do it beautifully, while others sit with their memories of mistakes on loop like a never-ending vine.
In order to move ahead, let the past be in the past. Keep short accounts of wrongs and move on. Offer and ask for forgiveness and grace. When needed, give it to yourself. No one is perfect. As we navigate life, it is better to recognize that it will not always be easy and your actions and words may not always be perfect. A messy life can still be a very good life.
Regardless of the focus of a do-over, I have good news: your past is not the only thing that gets to determine your future. Life only moves in one direction… forward. While looking back may be helpful to seeing things more clearly in small doses, keeping an eye on the rear view is not usually the best way to get where you are going. Starting today, you can set yourself up for something better. Strive for the best version of you and life that you might create. In all of our rituals, that version of a better self is a central guiding element. Don’t leave your ritual locked up in a closet, but take your guiding principles with you everywhere. Let that drive you every day.
Spring seems to be the perfect time for fresh start as nature cycles its own do-over. If you want to harvest great things to come, start by living in the present and planting a garden of the things you desire for the future.
If you want to be a better version of you, turn the soil, remove the debris and add in what is missing. You are now in charge of taking care of you. How you spend your time, your resources, what you give your attention. Do the simple things. Eat good foods. Get plenty of water and rest and exercise. If there are things in your life that need to be reduced or removed, perhaps now is a time to consider what value they serve and are they worth the costs. When you feel better physically, you perform better at everything you do. Remember those school testing days, “Get plenty of rest, and eat a good breakfast.“ That advice still holds true at any age.
If you want to be successful in school, plant seeds of academic success (study hard, stay on top of assignments, attend class, and ask questions when you don’t understand). While you may not be able to redo the first half of the semester, you can start today and finish strong. Notice where your effort can have the greatest impact. Do you have an academic goal for your classes? If not, set one. Know where you stand in your classes and what extra effort at this point can change a final grade positively for the better. If you need extra support, take advantage of the resources around campus. The Student Success Center, the Writing Center, online library resources, citation engines, tutoring, study groups, and don’t forget to take advantage of faculty office hours, etc… Consider taking your faculty to lunch using the Dean of Students Lunch Hours Program. https://dos.utk.edu/lunch-hours/ One hour over a meal is an investment in you.
If you want to be successful in your career, water your garden with opportunities to network, seek out mentors, and model what they teach you. Take advantage of the resources available through Career Services and your college, like career counseling, job fairs, resume writing workshops, graduate degree testing, etc… Join an organization in your major to expand your network and invite your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters to join you. Find a career that feeds a passion for the long haul. Talk to people who do the work and look for part time jobs, internships or even volunteer opportunities to build hands-on experience in the field. Ask your alumni who they know in the area doing the kind of thing you want to do and see if they might connect you for a conversation. Be intentional, set goals and write them down and then review them routinely. Share them with others to keep yourself accountable.
If you want to be a great leader, a great friend, a great partner, invest time in the people you care about. Pay attention to what they are saying. Show them that they matter. One of my favorite quotes is “What you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Does what you say match what you do, or even more importantly, what you believe? If not, take the steps to walk the walk.
If you want to build a better stronger fraternity or sorority, start today, define what that looks like for you and invite people to your board of directors, share the vision, tell the story of the good that is happening along the way. Celebrate the positive accomplishments you are making. Correct the problems that would lead you in the wrong direction. Don’t give up or stop short. Connect with people who can help you… other students, your advisors, OSFL staff, campus/community, or alumni supporters. Plan for effective transitions so the next person can pick up where you finished, not where you started.
The point is, if you want to do or be something, it is completely in your power to take the first step today. Don’t wait. Today is perfect timing. Years ago a mentor told me, you will never find a group of people more motivated about their future as you will working on a college campus. Having worked in the private sector, I have found this to be true. Your potential is amazing. You are perched on the edge of something truly remarkable. Don’t allow yourself to be the victim of drifting away from the goals you establish for yourself or living in a loop of regret. The best way to avoid a do-over, is to simply start now and do it right.
Go Rocky Top Greeks!