Someone to Believe

Hello from a Mediterranean Coffee Shop,

We are down to hours left in the class portion of the semester and finals begin on Monday. I remember customarily feeling both anticipation and exhaustion as I faced the impending end of every semester. Part of it was pouring everything I had most of the time into every class. Averaging 18 credits a semester certainly contributed to my feeling spent both mentally and physically. People inquire why I might choose such an arduous path to my bachelors degree, but the answer is simple. I needed to be I was capable; being dismissed academically, and having only a 2.8 or something like that from high school, my previous academic record brought little confidence that I would succeed. Even though my military service demonstrated that somewhere I had both the intelligence and the ability, there was little, or more accurately nothing, to predict I would now be looking back on almost 30 years in the academy. I am not sure anyone (including myself) believed in such a possibility. I say it this way, “I needed something or someone to believe in.” I needed to dig deep and believe that someway I could be of worth, much like what Homer heard from Dr. Larch in Irving’s novel, The Cider House Rules. And yet, much like Homer, I had little idea of how or where. Furthermore, most times I felt like I had little support. This is not to say support was not there; rather I had little idea if it was or how I might use it if it became apparent.

Certainly, if you follow this blog, the idea of hope is a pretty contrast thread. Believing in something or someone is quite similar to hope. When I grew up my father impressed upon me that adage “your word is your bond.” He would follow that with stating rather emphatically, “if you do not have your word, you have nothing.” Simply, he returned to the basics of trust and faith. I wish I were half the man he was. I think I have done pretty well; however, while I have the best of intentions, but I do not follow through as well as I wish. This has been a malady that has plagued me throughout life. I am quick to offer before thinking of the time commitment or effort my offering might entail. I am getting better, but I still feel I could improve.

As I reach the age of being as old as dirt, or so it seems (I thought those with a 50th high school reunion had to be that old, and I am here). I wonder at moments what those who see us now saw us as ancient as we saw our predecessors. I think back to some of my high school teachers, and imagined them to be in their 50s. Wow, that seems like a yungin’ (and I do not mean the rapper) now. This morning, as I have done since the 1980s, I was up incredibly early to watch the coronation of King Charles III in London. To think he was 4 when his mother was crowned at the young age of 26 and he now becomes the oldest monarch to be crowned in British history. I am always amazed and fascinated by the legacy that is the crown. I wonder what it feels to follow the 70 year reign of someone, and even more so when that was one’s mother. He has witnessed so much, experienced so much, and has been under the microscope for his entire life. Much of the commentary (and while I appreciate Michael Strahan, today I found him embarrassing) noted how much one of King Charles’s duties would be to maintain the relevancy of the crown. That is no easy task in our continually changing world. It is this profound change that seems to be increasing in speed and degree that makes much of what one might considered typical or appropriate no longer either.

It is a week or more, and I am still attempting to complete this post. It is now Mother’s Day, and it is once day post-commencement. As I generally do, I attended our Bloomsburg Campus’s second commencement ceremony. It is typical that the faculty process in their regalia and the students are assembled to receive their hard earned diplomas. The beginning of the afternoon festivities started in their typical manner. It was a bit different that graduate diplomas were also awarded. In the past that was a different event, but I believe the integration precipitated the newer development.

As the two colleges (College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities and the Ziegler College of Business) awarded the diplomas, and students crossed the stage to typical hollers and adulations, followed by the typical pictures. Up to this point it seemed normal. Then things took a different direction. Beginning with the very first graduate student, who I happened to know from when we was a freshman, she did not return to her seat, but left the stadium. The majority did return to their seats, but an hour or so into the ceremony, the number of students just leaving looked like someone had called for a mass evacuation. By the end of commencement, there were so few students left the recessional was abandoned. I am still somewhat shocked a day later. Some of my colleagues’ feelings varied from shock to anger. I found myself feeling mostly perplexed; however, this is the COVID freshman class. Little about their undergraduate process has been normal, so perhaps their “I’m done! Outta here!!” response should not surprise anyone. And yet, my idealistic, process-centered self is profoundly boggled by what happened. What is typical? Where can I pin something that will provide that sense of stability, something or someone to believe in?

It’s a new week, and again it is flying my usual May focus on health issues are, significantly more problematic than they have been for some time. I have disclosed that I was diagnosed with late-onset Type II diabetes about 5 years ago. It seemed manageable with medication and an additional medication until recently (last couple months). Working with a CGM system, I can see my sugar levels at all times. That is an amazing thing, but also a bit disconcerting as you see the peaks and such immediately. I was not aware that I had some of the possible numbers I have experienced this week. The ironic thing is I do not feel badly, which is a blessing, but I do feel some increased stress. I received more information and things to consider yet this afternoon. I will research some more medications options this evening that will work with the new Ozempic that is now part of my regimen. I am frustrated; I am a bit frightened; and I feel I just got another reality check from all that has happened to my body from Crohn’s. I am not sure how all the pieces fit together, but I sometimes doubt they do. I wish I could anticipate some of this before it occurs. There is that desire to control things again rearing its head. I do realize how I have been blessed in so many ways, but during the last couple weeks, I have been pushed to imagine a lifestyle that is much different than I have lived, in spite of many limitations since I around 30. In a number of ways that seems beyond ancient, but again it is over half my life ago. While that first surgery in December of 1986 seemed substantial it seems like a walk-in-the-park compared to what has occurred since. I remember my seminary advisor noting I had gone through major surgery. I did not see it as so profound, though I guess it was. I think what is more profound is what my body has done since. Ten more surgeries, and complications I could have never anticipated have been more of a family member than a distant acquaintance. Those experiences have developed a sense of resilience and the belief that I can overcome anything, but I think I am getting tired. I have been there before and turned it around, and I am working to get there again, but this one seems a bit more serious and formidable. I can only take each day as it comes. In my own piety, prayers are welcome.

And yet, as much as I would like to manage otherwise, it seems my life is being offered help through pharmacueticals. I spoke with another physician yesterday, who is a genius on so many levels, and he said that Ozempic is sort of the wonder-drug of the time. He also noted that my having access to it is a miracle in itself. The first day, after taking it, there was some GI distress, but certainly manageable. Whie my glucose levels are what I consider ridiculously high, there does seem to be some leveling out from the extreme numbers earlier in the week. I am hoping additional dosages will do what they are intended to do, and we can get this more regulated than I am currently. Life is such an amazing, and yet tenuous, gift. And I am reminded that not everyone gets to realize that or experience that giftedness. I have been reminded of that as I prepare for that auspicious occasion of a 50th anniversary of a graduation. There are a significant number of classmates who are no longer in this world to attend. That is the harsh reality of our fragility. It is a reminder that we are provided opportunities each day, regardless our station, to make a difference in some small manner. Sometimes that difference is through an act of kindness, a reminder to another that they matter. How often do we simply bypass an opportunity to provide a ray of hope in the midst of someone’s struggle to manage their day? I dare say, too often.

This is the something or someone I want to believe in. I want to cling to the hope that we have some sense of goodness in us that is ready to comeout at a moments notice, offering a positive tone to their yearning for something even microscopically better. I’m am too familiar with those who find it difficult to be optimistic. I have been too affected by those who wallow in a sense of it’s-never-enough. I want to believe in the possibility of goodness and kindness. I want to surround myself with those who find that kindness can always overcome dismissal, who believe that every day is a gift regardless their situation (and this is not some idealism, though some might argue otherwise). It is hard to believe another academic year has come and gone. I was blessed beyond words by a group of four incredibly talented young women who together grew, managed adversity, and will make our world a better place. It is their picture that graces this blog. To share dinner with them as a sort of graduation present was beyond enjoyable. They are people to believe in.

Something to Believe in

Thank you for reading. If this is the first time, welcome, and I hope you will come back.

Dr. Martin

Published by thewritingprofessor55

As I move toward the end of a teaching career in the academy, I find myself questioning the value and worth of so many things in our changing world. My blog is the place I am able to ponder, question, and share my thoughts about a variety of topics. It is the place I make sense of our sometimes senseless world. I believe in a caring and compassionate creator, but struggle to know how to be faithful to the same. I hope you find what is shared here something that might resonate with you and give you hope.

9 thoughts on “Someone to Believe

  1. Hi Dr. Martin! First off, I am sorry to hear you have had to undergo so many surgeries. I can only imagine how physically taxing eleven surgeries have been on your body. I had surgery done on my knee almost four years ago, and I thought one surgery was terrible enough. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, and I usually do not like reading at all. I would certainly recommend this blog to anyone, but specifically, to those who feel a sort of hopelessness or purposelessness. I noticed a theme of hope, faith, belief, and gratitude throughout this blog.

    In this blog, I sensed that you have a lot of gratitude, even through some tough circumstances. This is a great quality to possess, and I think it would be very beneficial for anyone who struggles with feeling hopeless during hard times to read. You mentioned you have had numerous amounts of medical issues, but that has not kept you from being positive and grateful for life and the gift that it truly is. A reality check that most of us will probably face at some point in our lives is when we complain about different stages or circumstances in life, but then remember, not everyone gets to experience even half of the incredible things we have. You mentioned that you were reminded of how grateful you are for the gift that life is when your 50th anniversary of graduation came along and some of your classmates are no longer in the world to experience this event. I was inspired by your ability to see the good in the tough situations you have been in and still feel as if life is a gift rather than a curse.

    My favorite part of the blog was when you stated that we all have opportunities every single day to make a difference in the world. In today’s world, I do not think society considers this as much as we should. Just a simple smile at someone, when they pass you by on the street, can make their day so much better. Kindness comes at no cost. I am a firm believer that you truly never know what someone else is going through, and spreading kindness can make all the difference in someone’s life. It does not matter who you are, every day is a new opportunity to be kind and compassionate towards someone else.

    Throughout this whole blog, hope seemed to be the centerpiece. I enjoyed the way you made it clear that there is a way to find hope even when facing trials and situations that are not ideal. At many times in life, we may feel we are at our lowest and it may seem as if no one cares and no one is there to help. It is so important to have a good support system and find people who truly love and care about you, friends, and family who have your back no matter what. Having hope is not always easy, but being able to find the good in every situation helps. Sometimes I feel as if there is no hope for our society, but then an occasional interaction with a kind-hearted individual brings a glimmer of hope that kindness still does exist in our world. Having someone or something to believe in helps navigate through difficult situations, overcome setbacks, and move past challenges. What would be the point of doing anything or working towards a goal if you did not have trust and hope that where you were headed was exactly where you wanted or needed to be?

    After my first semester in college, I found myself feeling very hopeless. I did not think I was going to be able to continue in nursing school. I felt like a failure, even my parents were disappointed in me. Coming back from doing so poorly felt out of reach. I was searching for something to give me hope that I was on the right track. I had to learn to believe in myself when it felt like no one else did. I grew up in a Christian home, but during my junior year in high school, I had sort of given up on my faith and religion. I wondered if God was punishing me, and that was why I had done so poorly that semester. It felt like a reality check that I needed to change what I had been placing my hope in. Since that semester, I placed my hope in God again, and feel a sense of peace. I have done significantly better in my academic career since then, even making the Dean’s list two times. I truly yearn for everyone to find their vessel of hope and “Someone to Believe”.

  2. The interplay of topics here – of health issues, the passage of time, and the fragility of human life and experience – all do well to communicate your complex feelings regarding mortality. Fifty years since high school graduation is an impressive feat, and most people would expect the years to take some toll on a person between then and now. The wear and tear is not always physical, as some would readily admit, for years can wear on both the body and the mind.

    Modern medicine truly is remarkable, and I’m glad to hear it’s proving helpful. I can attest to its own impacts (both good and bad) on my life. One of the medications I currently use (Topiramate) has been been prescribed to treat chronic, debilitating headaches caused by elevated cerebrospinal fluid pressure. Prior to taking that medication, I would sometimes lose entire days due to crippling pain. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that one medication (such as Ozempic or Topiramate) can have such a profoundly positive impact on a person’s quality of life. I know it has caused me to feel blessed for even the simplest things in life.

    Approaching your 50th graduation reunion, you had mentioned that some faces will not be seen. Facing the specter of mortality is an incredibly difficult task for the vast majority of people, I think, and philosopher Peter Wessel Zapffe touches upon this briefly in his work “The Last Messiah.” We are, according to him, the only organisms burdened by the knowledge of our inevitable fate, but we choose to cope with this knowledge through various methods.

    One of those methods described by Zapffe, sublimation, converts that fear and anxiety we might have about mortality and instead directs it toward an active, positive goal. I would argue it’s sort of akin to the Latin phrase “Memento Mori” (translated, I believe, as “remember that you must die”), which is itself empowering in an existentialist sort of way. By acknowledging the finite nature of life itself, we can recognize that the inherent fragility of humanity is, in many ways, one of its most beautiful aspects. Every tower raised is a testament to humanity’s indomitable will despite its inevitable destruction. Every tear shed is a testament to how deeply we love and regret.

    Thus I believe your mention of the 50th reunion is timely for all of us, for we could all benefit from grappling with our own mortality. It should give us some inspiration to realize that we cannot afford to wait to chase our dreams. And with the wonders of modern medicine, I believe it also shows just how much further we can go with a little help.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog post! You gave us all detailed insight into your life and experiences and I found it very interesting. As a current college student, I was really able to grab on to your discussion about your “end of semester” experience. I’m in a similar situation academically, I haven’t had a semester where I’ve taken less then 18 credits. It’s insane to think but it’s true, and it really takes a toll on you. I feel that sharing your experience will inspire myself and other college students to believe in themselves. Some come out of high school with very poor grades and think that college will eat them alive, this is just not true. I hope others can realize that from reading this.

    Your title “Someone to Believe” does an amazing job summarizing the central idea of your writing. All of your paragraphs, while targeted at different audiences, emphasize one or more people to believe in to keep yourself going whether that be your Father, Doctor, Professor, or even yourself.

    I know I don’t have much to say, but the reason for this blog is very clear to me and it’s a strong message:

    Be the someone that you would want to believe in.

  4. Dear Dr.Martin,
    It seems that you are at a pivotal moment in your academic journey, facing the end of the semester and the anticipation of finals. Your dedication and perseverance in pursuing your bachelor’s degree despite the challenges and doubts you faced are commendable. Understandably, you sought to prove to yourself and others that you were capable of academic success.
    The theme of belief and hope resonates throughout your post. You mention the importance of having something or someone to believe in, and how that belief can provide a sense of worth and motivation. It’s evident that you value trust and faith, as instilled in you by your father’s adage that “your word is your bond.” It’s also clear that you strive to be a person of integrity and follow through on your intentions, although you acknowledge room for improvement.
    As you reflect on the passage of time, you express wonder at how others perceive you as you reach certain milestones in life. You mention the recent coronation of King Charles III and the weight of his responsibilities in maintaining the relevancy of the crown amidst a rapidly changing world. This leads you to ponder what is considered typical or appropriate in the face of profound societal changes.
    You also share your observations of a recent commencement ceremony and the unexpected departure of many students after receiving their diplomas. While you express perplexity and a desire for stability, you acknowledge the unique circumstances faced by the COVID freshman class and how their unconventional undergraduate experience might have influenced their response.
    Additionally, you open up about your personal health struggles, specifically late-onset Type II diabetes and the challenges it presents. You describe your journey with various medications and the stress that accompanies monitoring your sugar levels. Through it all, you exhibit resilience and a willingness to confront and adapt to the changes your body undergoes.
    In closing, you express a deep desire to believe in the possibility of goodness and kindness in the world. You emphasize the importance of acts of kindness and hope to surround yourself with individuals who share that belief. Lastly, you mention the impact made by a group of talented young women who have grown and will contribute positively to the world.
    Overall, your blog post captures a range of emotions, reflections, and contemplations that many readers can relate to. It’s evident that you have a strong introspective nature and a desire to find meaning and purpose in your experiences. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and may you find the belief and hope you seek in your journey ahead.

    Best regards,
    Anna Curry

  5. Dr. Martin,

    The Crown is a fascinating topic. My wife enjoys following the legacy through the lens of the TV series based on the Monarchy. To me, it is interesting that the institution still exists today. It seems so unnecessary in a modern world for a Monarchy to prevail in a 1st-world country. Maybe the difference is generational, or maybe I’m just too much a of realist in ideology. When things don’t work, or at least lack practical function, I say get rid of them. Why keep daylight savings, or our representative democracy? These ideas were founded practically for a different time, or a dated school of thought. The same seems true of the Monarchy. It’s wasteful and grandiose, and with Elizabeth’s legacy directly harkens to a time where colonization and the appropriation of so many diverse cultures was commonplace.

    For now I will try to keep calm and carry on. I’m glad to hear you are having success with your medication, and may we all continue to be in good health and spirits.


  6. Dr. Martin,
    I think this is a wonderful post you have written. Your health stuck out to me as the main topic of conversation. I am sure it is difficult to have so many appointments to manage, opinions to hear, and research to do, on top of just not feeling your best. I guess I have taken for granted the fact of my fairly good health and youth. Perhaps I should work on learning to appreciate that more.
    My guess as to your purpose for writing this would be that you want people to realize how lucky we are to have youth and good health, as well as inspiring others to do what they can in order to spread just a little more kindness.
    I think younger/college age students may find this posting especially intriguing, or perhaps someone who is just “cresting the hill” of aging. Perhaps someone who is just starting to really notice the effects of aging can be inspired from this post to take advantage of their good health and the youth they have left.

  7. Dr. Martin,
    That was very shocking to me how most of the graduate students did not go back to their seat when they received their diplomas at graduation. If I were a professor there or had witnessed it myself I would have been very confused and shocked. To me no matter how much you don’t want to be at the school any longer than you have to I would still have enough respect for the faculty to stay until the end of the ceremony. I get what you said about the students wanting to say “I’m out” but there has to be a certain level of respect and professionalism, for Christ sake your going out into the work force to be an adult. Any way it was very interesting to read you blog and get a brief insight into your past present and near future of what is going on in your life. I have never read a blog before and i’m not going to lie I had some expectations of it being boring but it gives good incite about not just your life but events that are happening around us and the college. Best of luck with your health and i’m excited to read your next post.

  8. Dr. Martin

    I am very appreciative that you are open about your life, especially health conditions. Most people would either be too afraid to show how vulnerable they are or just sharing their condition frightens them. You talking about how difficult your life has been without having a sense of something or someone is something that most people can relate to, myself included. There were many times in middle school where I didn’t understand why I was here. I didn’t feel as though I had a purpose in school except to get an education so I didn’t seem like a failure. Since high school and college, I have begun to understand why I am here and someone is there to help me in the long run. It helps others and myself understand that you are not alone and others may be struggling just like you.

    You also touched on your 50 year reunion which is an accomplishment in itself. It is unfortunate that some of your colleges could not make it due to unforeseen circumstances and that may be difficult to grasp. The fact that you are still doing so much for yourself and even with set backs in your life, is incredible. 50 years is a long time and being able to see it happen means that you are determine to keep going, no matter how many set backs that may occur.

    You also seeing the graduating class is wonderful. Being able to think back on past experiences with your students is a beautiful thing. Even though some of the memories may not be the best, it still is lovely to be able to look back and say, “I helped those students get to where they are now. I made an impact on some ones life.” That is what should be though about now. All of the lives you are changing by being a professor and helping numerous students achieve their goals and be successful for the rest of their lives.

    I am very excited to see what you are going to be next.

  9. belief has always been something I’ve struggled with- myself or others. I’ve recently been able to bring a better mindset to my life, despite my body trying to stop me, and bring more self-belief in. I’d attribute it to finally comprehending the utter belief my family has in me- they’ve become a driving force in my life.

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