Hello from Panera,
It is early evening on the first day of another week of school. The close of the semester is rapidly approaching, and just as I thought I had planned well external events moved things around, changing my trajectory significantly. For the first time in 50 years, I had an auto accident that I am at fault in. What is interesting is in the 3 weeks since, my fear of another is through the roof (so to speak since the new Beetle is a convertible). Seriously, though, I am incredibly more reactive to anything that happens around me. If someone stops and I am even close, I find myself hitting the brake pedal. . . .
My intentions to turn this blog around quickly have dissipated (or failed miserably). It is now three weeks later and every time I have been hoping to write, either something called me away, or more significantly, I felt I had nowhere to go in terms of what I wanted to do. And yet the title of the blog is still relevant. Yesterday, I attended the Annual Scholarship Luncheon, hosted by the Bloomsburg University Foundation. It is an opportunity for donors who give to the university to support students the possibility of meeting some of the very students who is benefiting from that gift. While my student was not in attendance because they are in Germany (I tried to get them to fly me to Germany to meet them, but it was not in the budget), the stories, the gathering, and the presentations from both a donor and a student were outstanding. Attending the university is a much different financial undertaking then when I first attended Iowa State University some 45 or so years ago. The cost for room, board, and tuition for an in-state student living on campus was $226.00/quarter (that did not include books). I actually made money attending college. And I squandered that opportunity failing out. I think back to that, and my retirement age persona still asks. “what was I thinking?!!” Even with a tuition freeze for the past four years, and the possibility of the fifth, going to Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania – Bloomsburg Campus, and receiving a Bachelors degree will cost approximately $100,000. And that is considered affordable! Amazing.
What is stunning to me is the how differently we view that degree today from when I graduated from high school, which in barely over a month will be 50 years. That too is stunning to me. One of the assignments I have in almost all of my classes is the creation of a Google Map/Memoir. In it, students are asked to create a Google map that explains to their future children who they are, what the world is presently like, and to offer some sense of what sort of world they believe their future children might live in 25 years from now. Through people, places, and events they deem significant in their lives, they have to explain all the things we perhaps wished we might have asked our parents. What was the world like for me 50 years ago. I am think about the country song, “1980 Something,” but I would need a decade earlier. Words like Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate, Détente, SALT, OPEC, and soon things like Resignation, Withdrawal (from a geographic place) were nightly news vocabulary. The thought of technology or even the personal computer was still a decade away. Attending college for this lower middle-class kid was a dream, and something I hoped enlisting in the Marine Corps might make possible. That time in the Marines affects me to this day. I had no idea what I had done, but I was determined to do it. It is that determination that has perhaps served me most profoundly.
Throughout my life, I have been told I was not capable enough; I was not tall enough, weighed enough, looked old enough; and too often I allowed those evaluations or comments to restrict me. Yet, when things were really pushed and things seemed to matter, I found the fortitude to stand up and believe enough in myself to attempt whatever it was, in spite of the admonishment to do otherwise. In fact, the more one told me no, the more likely I was to prove the opposite. So that determination, that stubbornness, that unwillingness to believe that negative answer has served me well (and least sometimes.). Just this morning, I have spoken with two different students encouraging them to not give up, and I think there will be a couple more before day is out. I’ve spent significant time considering why it is we often lead with the negative of something rather than the positive. Why is it we find the shortcomings so much more easy to point out rather than the positive things? Why is it we believe that focusing on what we do not have is more helpful than appreciating what we have. Maybe, for me, it is that I was so fearful of being around that all the time that I made both a subconscious, and somewhat conscious, decision to do it differently. That is perhaps the most fortunate happening which has occurred in my life. I am not some unfettered idealist, that is long gone, but I hold on to the optimism that provides a continual glimmer of hope, of light, that there can always be something better.
Working to make something better is laborious; it can be tedious and overwhelming. It can seem like we never get there, but that presupposes we know where there is or what there is. We do not. Too often we achieve something only to jump to the next thing, thereby never really celebrating the accomplishments completed. There is no real hope if the only destination has no stopping places along the way. I have known, and presently know, incredible people who have attained unparalleled success on numerous fronts, but they are not content. Contentment and complacency are not the same thing. Complacency is not something to which I subscribe, but contentment is. Contentment is taking time to believe in yourself in a manner that allows you to feel positive about what you have done and see the difference you have made. I think of Lydia. She would be 99 years old this coming August. After she retired, she began a bit reclusive, and yet she had an incredibly giving heart. I am reminded of the time she paid the outstanding taxes of a neighbor who was on the verge of losing their house. And yet she did not want people to know what she did. She and her husband came to the United States with two suitcases and $100.00. When she passed, she had accomplished becoming ABD in international economics. She and George owned about 1/3 of the entire circle she lived on. She had one of the most amazing houses in the entire town, and she was well respected both in the classroom and in town for her understanding of economics. And yet, she was content to be in her house. She once told me, if people wanted to see her amazing home, they would not be allowed to do so, but if someone was not all that amazed, she would offer them access. For those reading who knew her, I am sure you are not surprised. And yet, there was a sadness because I am not sure she ever felt it appropriate to be proud of herself. Again there is a difference between pride and arrogance. Again, why is it the things we should feel positive about we are afraid to do so?
I think there are many reasons, but I would like to say unequivocally that most of them are garbage. Take the time to realize the good things and be happy about them. Never become complacent, but realize the fortunate happenings in your life and celebrate them. Too often we allow those around us to sap our ability to celebrate. Sometimes those are the people closest to us, and that makes it even more difficult, but we have choices. We can allow those around us to undermine us; we can allow them to create a sense of doubt or incapability, but do not let that happen. I have been there and I lived a sad and frightened life, a life that seemed destined for simply existing, going through the motions of life without living. There is nothing positive in that. I find myself realizing that some of the difficulties I have faced helped me look for the goodness that I believe is always there. The picture above is my kindergarten graduation picture, the first of what would be many graduations, though I did not know it. I was happy in that moment. It is difficult in our present world, with all the acrimonious sounds and actions to find that glimmer of hope, but I pray you can find it. The positive in life is worthy of focusing on. It is worth celebrating. Certainly, do not sit and wait for life to come to you, but take time to believe in yourself and the possibilities the world offers. Good luck as you finish the semester or whatever task you are attempting. While the video below might seem seasonal, I believe the message fits for everyday.
Thank you for reading,
21 thoughts on “Fortunate Happenings”
I really enjoy your posts. I taught at Dana College for a brief five years. They were the best years of my life. My son still lives in Omaha and my daughter followed me back to PA. Neither of my children were Dana graduates but son took some classes there and daughter got her teacher degree from there. Again, I do enjoy your posts.
I did have to chuckle at the “didn’t weigh enough” comment… I remember that time as well and now long for a way to shed pounds back to it! I can remember one of the Saga cooks watching me consume mounds of food commenting. “Enjoy that while you can, it won’t last.” She was ever so right.
Indeed, Merle; I have managed to drop 30+ pounds the last three years. And yet, the struggle of maintaining is profoundly different. One of the most significant things I have done is simply portion control and walk. The reduction of sugar becaused of Diabetes II has played a role also.
I hope you are well. Hello to Elizabeth too.
I could not agree more with your statement on being happy about the fortunate things that happen in our lives. You said that “too often we let those around us sap our ability to celebrate”, I can think of some people who were close to me who made me doubt my abilities and tried to make me think I was incapable of attending college. The fortunate things are always something to be happy about, and I am glad you see it the same.
I relate a lot to this post, especially when you talk about having to build yourself up when others tear you down. I am also extremely sorry about your car accident. I have no doubt that the situation has left long last effects, even if it was not that bad. It would certainly raise my vigilance and anxiety tenfold.
I believe it to be completely understandable that you are more reactive after having a car accident. When I was a younger driver, I rear ended someone a few states away when they suddenly slammed on the brakes and my minivan full of people and luggage was not ready to stop. I was only 17, and afraid to drive for a few days afterwards, but always make sure I have a large following distance almost 5 years later. I hate being in the car with my parents because they like to get so close to people, but it is funny that I never thought about it before the accident. There was no damage to the other car from the accident and the guy was super nice, but I will never forget how bad I felt afterwards. I already suffer from anxiety with driving being one of my triggers, but I like to believe that I am one of the safest drivers out of my friends and family because of it.
It is interesting to see how you felt about college back when you were attending it. While Bloomsburg is one of the cheapest universities in the state, it is appalling to me that the price of the degree is considered great. My parents were able to pay for college so much easier in their time, and I am going to have student loan debt for years. The chance to go to college for $226/quarter would be a dream, as I sometimes pay more than that for textbooks each semester. In the area I grew up in, going to college was always expected after high school. I do understand that I grew up in a wealthier area, but sometimes it seems crazy to me that all these people are pushed to college when some would be happier going into the military or a trade route. Degrees also seem to not be worth as much these days when looking for your first job as they used to. Everyone is pushed to get a bachelor’s degree, and now employers seem to want even higher-level education to get a leg up on other candidates. The entire college system to me is flawed due to the prices, but it almost seems necessary to succeed in today’s world.
I am glad you managed to stand up for yourself whenever it mattered; regardless of what others may say. A lot of people let comments about themselves tear them down and hold them back in life, but pushing past them is how you can really succeed. Personally, I fuel myself off spite to prove people wrong. If someone says that I cannot do something, then I am going to do it just so they know that they were wrong about me. While it may not be the healthiest, it still motivates me to be the best possible version of myself. I liked what you said about needing to be proud of ourselves without others dragging us down, because I too often see friends tearing down their friends because they believe that everything is a competition. It is important to surround yourself with positive people who want you to succeed. In high school I had friends that used to compete with each other, and I find that I am much happier now with friends that care about me, and I care about them too. Life is too short to spend not acknowledging your achievements, and one of the best things to do is celebrate them with the people you love.
Two of my biggest fears are doing life, not living it, and failure. Although this sounds cliché I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to live in the moment and make the memories that will last me a lifetime. I want to travel and see everything I always dreamed of. I want to feel like I really have a place on this earth and that I had a purpose. I do not want to get to the last breath and realize I never lived my life. There is so much negativity in this world nowadays, that it is hard to stay positive. For some reason, the first thought when reading this blog was when I was a young kid and had no obligations. I would walk down in the morning to breakfast and the TV on. My dad would change the channel to let me watch some of my favorite Disney shows. Everything was so simple back then. Now I’m 21 and I feel as though I’m just trying to get by which is exactly what I fear. I know it’s just my age and with being a nursing student it’s not just going to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. I have to admit I am one of those people who look more at the negative than the positive. I tend to downplay my accomplishments because I just know they’re so minuscule to the things I want to accomplish eventually. I need to learn though and they build off of each other and I do need to recognize when I’ve completed something. My parents have always been my number one supporters. I get texts from my dad on the daily to remind me that he is proud of me. Maybe that’s why I’m so scared of failure because not only would I be letting myself down but I’d be letting them down as well.
I am sorry to hear of your car accident and the anxiety it has caused you. One of my biggest fears is a car accident, and it haunts me that it is most likely inevitable, as we spend so much time in cars. I hope you feel more comfortable behind the wheel soon, and I hope you are well.
Your part about celebrating accomplishments stuck with me. This semester, I have had a few small accomplishments that I felt guilty celebrating. I felt guilty being happy about them, for whatever reason. I agree with you about life, you have to pursue it.
Your kindergartens graduation photo reminded me of my own. We didn’t get little caps and gowns. I’m not even sure we got the piece of paper. Sure, it was kindergarten, but I suddenly feel cheated. It’s funny, I have had two graduations in life, kindergarten and high school. I’ll have a third in a few months. However, when I think of graduation, I think about those photos of me at age five, standing outside with my little sister in a white dress in May or June. Perhaps I think about that first because it was my first accomplishment. And maybe, if that is why, I am still celebrating that accomplishment. Thankfully, it is not one I feel guilty about.
As someone who goes on drives for fun, getting into an accident is one of my biggest fears. I know how to control a car well, but sometimes I get caught up in the moment, and my focus goes solely on the road ahead and the feeling of the car, making me less focused on the little gauge that keeps going up in front of me. I enjoy those little moments because they give me a break from the worries of my day-to-day life. These moments also show how it is easy to become so focused on some factors but ignore things that are equally important. I have a habit of occasionally overlooking information, but I am working hard on becoming more thorough in viewing all the factors related to whatever situation I am in.
I struggle more with self-doubt than with doubt from others, and I have days where I don’t get any work done because I feel like I am incapable of accomplishing anything. The occasional spark of determination to push through and get work done snowballs into getting more work done, and I move on to better days. I am always optimistic that my situation will improve, even on my darker days, but in order to improve my situation I have to put in a lot of hard work, which takes time. Self improvement is a difficult process, but it is rewarding to reap the benefits of being a better person and a better student than I previously was. When I have my small victories, even if they are as simple as spending a day accomplishing work that I have put off, I feel that is cause for celebration. Acknowledging the good days makes me see how far I have come, and that I am in a better place than I was. I am hopeful that I will continue to improve myself, and by doing so I will create a better future for myself.
First thing is that I’m sorry to hear of your accident. I have been fortunate enough to have avoided this catastrophe thus far, but I can only imagine how scary it is. Moving forward in your blog, you point out the habit of negative thinking, which I too feel is a horrible way to live. It is often hard to find a balance of being self-critical enough to continually improve oneself, but not so hard that unnecessary stress and worry is caused. I feel that negative emotions are focused on in our society because of the ease at which it is to give criticism. Even from a young age, often times it’s a much shorter list to say what you are doing wrong than what you’re doing right.
This blog in my opinion is a reflection on the changing value of a college degree in this current day and age in comparison to when you graduated high school over 50 years ago. As well as the regards to the financial undertaking of universities, and college education. When you touch on the importance of having an optimistic outlook as you share your personal experience such as your unfortunate car crash, it made me think of determination and self-belief. It resonated with me. Your words serve as a reminder that having hope and working towards making something better can make a significant difference in someone’s life.
Hello Dr. Martin,
I just want to say that i can relate to this blog post in a couple ways. First, I am a transfer student at Bloomsburg University. When I first thought about college, Bloom was not a top choice for me. However, as time went on while I attended Ursinus College, I felt unhappy. I felt like if I went back 4 years I would not have went to Ursinus. I had a mix up with classes that my advisor never mentioned to me, so essentially I was enrolled in courses that would not help me graduate on time. At this point I felt hopeless. All I could think about was ‘How am I going to tell my parents I won’t graduate on time?’. Little did I know telling my parents would be the best choice to make. After I told them, they were surprised, but supportive. We sat down and looked at different options. I told them my desire to change majors from Computer Science to Digital Forensics. Bloomsburg was a great option for DF and I love it here. I am extremely happy to have been challenged by this obstacle in life because for me, this was my ‘Fortunate Happening’.
I am so sorry to hear about your car accident. I hope all is well!
I’m sorry to hear about your recent car accident and the impact it’s had on your state of mind. As a college student, I can relate to the stress and pressure of trying to balance external events with academic responsibilities. Your post about the Annual Scholarship Luncheon was very inspiring, and I appreciate your perspective on the changing landscape of college affordability. It’s remarkable to think about the different challenges and opportunities that existed for people who attended college 50 years ago compared to now.
I found your discussion on determination and resilience, particularly compelling. As someone who has faced doubt and negativity from others, I admire your ability to push past those limitations and believe in yourself. Your message about finding positivity and celebrating accomplishments is a good reminder for all of us to focus on the good things in our lives and not let others bring us down.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I wish you all the best as you continue to navigate through the aftermath of your accident and the rest of the semester. The video you included at the end was a nice touch, and I agree that the message is applicable every day.
Oh no! I am very sorry to hear that. I’m sure you were and are still upset, but what matters most is that you are okay. Being in accidents is honestly the scariest thing. I remember when it was storming one night, and I worked late at the hospital and was traveling home. I crested a hill and drove right into a tree lying across the whole road. What I remember most was the sound. It was so loud and harsh. It indeed does affect you for a while and makes you more aware.
My car was just in an accident too. A drunk driver hit my parked vehicle in my friend’s driveway, along with a fence and two other trucks. I feel like everything happens when things seem easy or going too well.
Your creation of a Google map/memoir for the class is beautiful and such a good idea. It’s crazy how things change so quickly as time goes on.
I love that you pushed through all the negativity that people showed towards you and told you. I often find myself in the same position. I usually let those comments and presumptions affect me more than I should, and it’s not that I ultimately believe in myself, but I do believe that the work you put in will show and will provide you with results. You just have to want it enough and keep going. That is an excellent question to ask. I think a lot of the time, the negative things just outweigh us emotionally more and cause us to point them out more easily. I do think that focusing as much as we can on the positives is the best way to live our lives because there are always going to be negatives, but we must focus on the positives, even if they are small, to get us through.
You spoke about contentment and complacency and honestly related so much to it. I feel like a lot of people fall into the habit or mindset of what is next. I know I do that a lot. I can never really appreciate everything I’ve done or doing because I am always focused on the next task or thinking that I need to do something else to be proud or feel accomplished.
Dr. Martin, I agree that Commonwealth University-Bloomsburg is a much cheaper alternative college to something like Penn State or any big ivy league, even now that you mentioned how much Iowa was. It costs a lot less. I’ve had the urge to drop out sometimes because my coursework is extremely difficult and confusing. When I first transferred from community college to Bloomsburg for my final two years, I lost at least a years worth of credits, but that was just part of the journey to get my career on track. Pushing through negativity and rough times throughout life, especially in college, will always be an acquired skill for anyone. In my opinion, this post was an excellent definition of what college and life were like before I transferred. Thank you for sharing.
Sorry to hear about the accident. I have been in three, none of which I was driving, but they’re still terrifying whether you’re the one behind the wheel or just in the passenger seat. Two of the accidents I was in are the reason I refuse to drive in snow.
The part about negative comments made about your appearance and capabilities stuck with me. Throughout my life I have heard similar comments about myself, especially the part about not weighing enough. It is not something I can change easily and I have accepted it, but the comments still get to me at times.
I think it is important to ignore negativity and be positive, like you said. We should not let what other people say and think have an impact on how we live our lives.
Automotive accidents can be quite traumatic. Fortunately for me, I’ve never been at fault in an accident.. at least not one that was severe enough to cause damage. But I do remember every accident vividly, especially my first. I was driving a little Volkswagen Golf up Center Street when someone rolled through the stop sign at the intersecting alley behind the BTE. They clipped my rear door, and the weight of their SUV spun my car ninety degree to the left and nearly through the wall of the theatre. No one was harmed, but the significance of the event was in the realization of just how fragile I was, and how powerless I was in that situation to protect myself.
And so I imagine in a situation like that, being at fault could invite all sorts of additional feelings around an already fraught event. Being responsible for harming another individual would weigh heavily on my mind. I remember distinctly my father telling me as a child that if he ever hit and killed a pedestrian, he would never drive again. That always stuck with me, and held significance. And still in some places, like New York City, hitting pedestrians often results in a simple fine or no penalty at all. Accidents are certainly more common and probably less traumatic for those involved. And maybe people don’t feel so invincible and in control as us small town folk.
Hi Dr. Martin,
I am very sad to hear about the automotive accident that you were involved in. I been involved in two minor accidents where one of them I was at fault. I didn’t slow down quick enough and hit the back of a tractor trailer and he did not know I hit him. It did a decent amount of damage to my car, but it was able to get fixed and that has been it for me with accidents. After being in an accident, there definitely is going to be some fear the next time you get behind the wheel. I felt the same way after my accidents because I felt I wasn’t a safe driver. After not really thinking about it, it just went away for me and things were back to normal when I would drive.
Talking about how you attended Iowa State University around 45 years ago is crazy to me and especially the prices of everything back then. $226/quarter is mind blowing as now we have some books alone that cost that much money. Choosing Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania was one of the best decisions I could have made because I still am living at home but still getting a great education for a decent price compared to other colleges and universities. When you talked about how you squandered the opportunity of failing out, that really resonated with me. Since the Fall 2022 semester, I have been working full-time and attending college full-time and it is definitely tough. I had to withdraw and drop a class during the fall and spring semesters, so I only took four classes (12 credits) instead of the usual 5 classes (15 credits). During certain times in that period, I really just wanted to drop out and mainly focus on my job that can be very stressful. I decided to keep going along and finish it out and still get at least 3.0 semesters. Your blog about Fortunate Happenings really got me thinking about similar events that occurred to me. It was very interesting to see your side of story when the events happened long before I was here, compared to now when things have drastically changed.
As someone that is currently looking for a new car, hearing about car accidents is something that is very frightening. Two of my close friends have been in life threatening accidents that did result in a totaled car. She is now very superstitious about where she drives, how close she is to someone, and the songs that play in her car. I have never been in an accident that I have caused and that my car has been totaled in.
With you attending the Annual Scholarship Luncheon, hosted by the Bloomsburg University Foundation, it got me thinking about all the different scholarships I have been fortunate enough to have received. Having to talk at a luncheon and just have the opportunity to meet with someone who is able to help me further my education is just incredible. I love that I can meet with them and say thank you face to face not just over email. The pride that all of those students must have being able to talk and thank everyone is just incredible.
Being able to not think negative thoughts is something that everyone strives to do. Some thoughts that may appear positive to some are negative to others. Having the ability and want to help someone succeed and continue on their path is very rewarding. There have been sometimes in middle school that I had to keep my friend focused and just talk to me during a difficult time in his life. He graduated last year and is happily at Penn State Altoona. Even if you feel like giving up or feel as though you are not giving your best, just remember, your best may look different everyday. Some people don’t realize that and in order to succeed and be able to live your life to the fullest, you need to keep that in mind.
Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and reflections in your blog post. Your intended audience is likely a mix of students, educators, and individuals interested in personal growth and self-reflection. The purpose of your post appears to be twofold: to share your recent struggles and the impact they have had on you, and to encourage your readers to focus on the positive aspects of life and celebrate their accomplishments.
You begin by describing a recent auto accident and how it has affected your outlook and reactions. This personal anecdote helps create a relatable and engaging introduction, drawing readers into your story. You then transition to discussing your experiences attending the Annual Scholarship Luncheon and reflecting on the changing costs of education over the years.
Throughout the post, you emphasize the importance of determination and self-belief in overcoming challenges. You share instances where you defied negative evaluations and comments, and you encourage your readers to do the same. You also touch on the tendency to focus on shortcomings rather than appreciating what one has, and you advocate for a more optimistic mindset.
Your use of personal examples and anecdotes adds authenticity and credibility to your message, and it helps readers connect with your experiences. The inclusion of the Google Map/Memoir assignment and the reference to Lydia’s story further demonstrate the value of self-reflection and finding contentment in one’s achievements.
In terms of style, your writing is conversational and informal, which suits the blog format and helps establish a connection with your readers. You employ rhetorical questions to engage the audience and provoke thought. Additionally, you conclude the post by sharing a video that conveys a message of hope and serves as a fitting conclusion to your reflections.
Overall, your blog post effectively communicates your experiences, thoughts, and advice to your intended audience. It encourages readers to embrace a positive mindset, celebrate their accomplishments, and believe in themselves. By sharing your journey, you offer a relatable perspective that can inspire and motivate others.
Best of luck with your continued writing and endeavors.
I am sorry to hear about the anxiety that the car accident has caused you. Car accidents can definitely make you rethink things in a hurry.
It amazed me to hear about the price of college when you first started. I know times have changed drastically, both economically and in how universities function. However, I do believe that the price of collage has gotten way out of hand. Although the number of people who attend college has increased from past decades, I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if a TRULY affordable college education was available to everyone. It saddens me to see some very intelligent minds not reach their full potential due to economic circumstances out of their own control.
I am in complete agreement with your idea of stopping to celebrate success. I often feel like whenever someone accomplishes something, immediately they are trying to move onto the next thing. Moving up and continuing to improves oneself is important, but I think it is valuable to “stop and smell the roses” for a while after a great success. After all, what is the point of doing something so substantial if you’re not going to appreciate the outcome for at least a little bit.
I find your words on Lydia interesting. I never knew Lydia, but she seems like a fantastic, selfless lady. How much people choose to flaunt their wealth and success is entirely up to them, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with celebrating success if you have it. There is a great difference between celebrating your own accomplishments and successes, and bragging and being arrogant.