“This is Water” or Let’s Stop Separating Ourselves from Traditional Students

This is water. This is water. Since I first watched the video created with part of David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” speech, I try to remind myself of my ability to choose between the default setting or something else. What is the default setting? It’s to assume that the world revolves around me – around us. That anything and everything going on around us is, in effect, intentionally there to get in the way or ruin our experience. It’s what our default setting is, but we can change it. So, first, I ask that you watch this video:

With that under our belt – we know that we are the people who know “all too well” about the frustrations of life. But, many traditional students do, too. And if they don’t, is that their fault? Should we hold it against them for not having the same challenges as us? Furthermore, are we all that different? My short answer is, no – we are not all that different. 

You and I need to choose to think differently about traditional students. First, we honestly don’t know how traditional one is or is not. We don’t know if they work full time, have a child, or struggle with other issues like disability. Not everyone openly shares that info. Second, we don’t want people to judge us by our differences, so we shouldn’t either. I truly believe there is a level of envy, maybe bitterness we feel at times because they “did it right” or are doing college the traditional way. If that is the case – we need to look inward and solve that conflict without blaming them.

In addition, I want to say this: research has predicted that there will be more nontraditional students than traditional by 2021. That is not because there will be a mass-enrollment by the typical nontraditional student, but rather it is because the traditional student isn’t the same. The traditional student has already started taking on various responsibilities like working full-time. As time marches forward, so will those added responsibilities.

Yet, for the differences we do have, we can learn to appreciate traditional students. We can learn to support them and encourage them. We should not look down on them because they don’t have the same experiences we have. In fact, we should praise them for their hard work. We have the opportunity to bridge the gap between “us and them,” so let’s try.

I love that Wallace brings up love and friendship…and the Truth – that you (and I) get to decide how to respond. I want to believe that there is a “mystical oneness” among ourselves and our peers. It’s a beautiful thought and it’s something I plan to bring with me as I move forward with my education.

Will you join me? 

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