T.S. Eliot very famously said that “April is the cruelest month.” But I disagree. I think September is the cruelest month – yet also a month with the most promise. The days after Labor Day feel like a slow, sad good-bye: to summer, to long hot days and warm nights, to beach trips and picnics, to frogs singing you to sleep, to all the infinite possibilities summer holds. Even the wind and light take on an elegiac tone.
But hard-wired in us from our school days is also the sense of a fresh, new start that comes with September. It’s a month like a blank page in a new notebook, just waiting for us to write our story.
So with these mixed feelings of sadness and hope, I stumbled once again on the annual Beloit College Mindset List. It’s a fascinating list, created originally to prepare Beloit professors for the way their new students see and experience the world, based on what has and has not existed in their lifetimes. I’ve read the list each year and laughed at times, shook my head a few times, and even sighed when I’ve thought about the world these kids have missed. But what I’m really sighing about is that they’ve missed my world, my experiences.
This year I marveled again at this new crop of kids who never watched an episode of Seinfeld as a current program, don’t remember the excitement of Saturday morning cartoons, and never got to play outside without constant supervision. But instead of thinking about these poor kids who missed out on the experiences I treasured, I tried to see how the world must look to them. What must it feel like to have always had the world’s best thinking (and cat pictures) at your fingertips all the time? To consider it normal to be constantly connected to others via your cell phone? To live in this instant world? I guess in some ways it leads to having Donald Trump considered a serious candidate for President; but there are positives to the experience, too.
What was different this year was that, as I thought about how unlucky the class of 2019 was to have missed The Brady Bunch, I finally saw and recognized my biases. I considered their experience to be ‘less than’ mine because the things I loved didn’t figure into their cultural landscapes. I thought these kids had really missed out.
If I change my perspective, I see that they bring fresh eyes to our world. They grew up with so much available to them — just imagine how much bigger their dreams might be than ours, the generation which had more limits early on. It’s made me think more deeply about how we make snap judgments about people, their talents, their experiences and beliefs, everyday without realizing it.
My challenge in the clean notebook that is September is to open my eyes to how I see, experience, and judge the world around me. Instead of thinking of how others are ‘other’ than me, I challenge myself to see the world through their eyes, through other perspectives, and make my vision and dreams bigger in the process. (I might even add a Mumford & Sons song onto my R.E.M playlist on Spotify. Maybe. This is still a work in progress, after all.)
Tell me something! What will you try to see anew in September?
Image credit: BarnImages