By Julia Carlson
Distinguished Young Woman of Nebraska for 2012
This past week, I was selected to attend a leadership workshop for students in my college here at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. While excited for the opportunity, I must admit that the strongest motivation for my attendance was free food that did not consist of another handmade turkey sandwich from the dining hall (what can I say I’m a poor college student!). I expected to receive a nice refresher course on the aspects of leadership and the importance of planning ahead, however to my surprise I was informed of the opposite. ten minutes into the presentation, as this woman whom I had never met before stood in front of me and 39 other undergraduate students, I was asked a question that challenged my perspective on life. This wonderful, ebullient woman with beautifully exaggerated hand gestures and a cute little stride was talking to us about leadership when she turned and looked each of us in the eye and said, “What year are you living in?” When she received no reply she repeated herself, “No really, what year are you livingin? 2014? 2016? What year?” My mind instantly went to the year that I intend to apply to graduate school, 2017; the year that had been on my mind most since the beginning of fall term.
In today’s culture we are incessant planners. We plan parties and get-togethers, projects and presentations, weddings and birthdays; we plan for tests, holidays, deadlines, graduations, applications, interviews, and jobs. We plan so much that by the time the event we have been planning comes around we are too busy planning the next thing on our “to-do list” to give the actual execution or completion much thought. Conveniently enough I had literally been talking about graduate school to my roommate an hour before the workshop I attended and it was still in the back of my mind as it began. Those words were the kind that reached in and smothered my brain with new thoughts, ideas and questions. Despite this new idea I was brought to a new level of tranquility.
Sometimes it really is best to close the planner, disconnect from Pinterest or Facebook or Twitter, take a deep breathe and fully engage and appreciate the things that are right next to you. There is no way you know everything about everyone (and if you do I would like to be your friend so you can tell me what my Chemistry professor is planning on including in my upcoming midterm). This week I propose a challenge to you; learn something new about the people or person who you think you know the most; whether a partner, best friend, parent/guardian, grandparent, even a coworker. Ask them about their dreams, their hardships, favorite memory from childhood, anything! There is always something to learn about people, and they always have something to share that will surprise you. Sometimes even the simplest conversations are the best, just think back to those wonderful Winnie the Pooh days, where the best lessons were learned; “What day is it?” Asked Pooh. “It’s today,” Squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh.
Julia Carlson is a college freshman at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota majoring in Biology with a minor in Management. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Julia was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Nebraska for 2012. Learn more about Julia here!