October 10th, 2013

What’s important in life? What kinds of things are going to happen after you graduate? If you want to take a peak into your possible future, John Carroll has been providing a way to do that for decades now. I know because I have played a small part in that.

Live an average lifespan, and your time at JCU is only about 5 percent of it. Speaking as someone that graduated almost 30 years ago and casually chronicled the lives of my fellow classmates afterwards, it’s clear the impact is much greater than that small percentage.  Expect to receive more from JCU than your diploma.  It is different for everyone, but if you want to look ahead and see how others that have finished their “walks around the quad” ahead of you are faring, JCU provides a publication for that.  The alumni magazine is freely sent to our homes every few months for the rest of our lives.  Read through each of the unique class year columns in every JCU magazine and you can see what almost amounts to a future time portal of the patterns of life experiences that appear throughout the cascading decades ahead of you.

Whenever I ask a fellow alumnus, they say the first thing that they read is their class’ notes column. The most important thing to them is to see what their old classmates are doing now.  In that moment they are back on campus, remembering friends from the past and old antics from their Carroll days. (Disclaimer: I have been writing as my class’ only columnist for the alumni magazine since 1984.)

Being a columnist for three decades gives me the gift of perspective. So what’s important in our life?  I receive news in two ways: Either someone writes to me, or their company sends out a press release. Press releases are about what’s important to the company: promotions, career moves, etc.  But what is important to the people themselves?  That comes out when someone personally writes to me.  Their notes are often like those Christmas newsletters you get. People that write may mention a promotion or a new job, but their work-life is a minor point.

We spend huge amounts of our lives at a job, but summarize your life in one letter and work is only a few words of it.  Turns out what’s important are all our other life experiences: weddings, births, anniversaries, travel, health concerns, their family’s changes, etc.  I don’t hear much about “the great Power Point presentation they gave,” or “the successful contract they secured.”

The things we do at work are essential, important and what makes the world go around. We should all be so lucky to have a meaningful job that we enjoy.  Our salaries support everything in our life. Your JCU class experiences are designed to prepare you for your work situations.

Careers are important, but let’s keep our eye on what turns out to be the “real things” in life.  For me, it’s been a loving marriage with a wonderful family, and all that goes with that. I married my fellow classmate, Michelle, 26 years ago! We have four sons, one of which is a senior finance major at JCU right now. I come from a large family of JCU graduates: three brothers, a sister, two sisters-in-law, two nieces and a nephew have all graduated from JCU.  I had a wonderful JCU experience. I wrote a column in The Carroll News and for many years I drew a weekly comic strip. (To see how that character has fared, look for a special comic in an upcoming issue.)

Things we learned at JCU both in and out of the classroom set us down the path of our careers, and it also guided us in many ways to the meaningful parts of life that we now are experiencing.  My advice to you after 30 years of watching classmate’s lives unfold? Study hard. Establish a worthy career. Invest in your future. But just know it will be the other parts of your life that you end up talking about the most.