The choice is yours

September 12, 2017

My Grade 8 teacher, Mr. Whelan, used to repeat the same truism to us students, every day. He would find a way to naturally segue to it after assigning homework or reviewing a test. Whenever a teacher repeats something over and over again, like times tables or the alphabet, it’s usually because they believe what they are saying has value. They want it to ooze out of you without you even realizing it. Mr. Whelan’s phrase, or warning, is: “What you put into life is what you get out of life.”

This quote is attributed to a few different people, or at least versions of it are. But my experience has it linked indefinitely to Mr. Whelan.

If you were one of his students, you’d know he liked the effect of repeating himself. In social studies, his passion, he would use six or seven synonyms to articulate the same straightforward idea. Example: “The First Nations people got, acquired, obtained, traded, bartered, dealt and exchanged beaver pelts with the British and French for metal pots … ” He liked instilling that repetition into his students, perhaps in hopes it would broaden their scope.

Mr. Whelan’s phrase garnered the desired effect. The phrase does now ooze out of me. Years have passed since hearing it but it’s now that I truly understand the meaning. Not that the meaning is hard to understand – it’s hard to do. It’s hard to act like you know it.

A year ago, I moved out of my parent’s house to Edmonton to start school at NAIT. When packing up my belongings, Mr. Whelan’s words came to me again, posing me a question. What did I want to get out this experience at NAIT?

Now, the question becomes unconscious in a way. When I start a project or large task I think about the ways the situation could turn out but also the ways I will change from doing it. I’m really only concerned with the second statement. The ways I will change from going through this experience and giving myself the best chance in the process is the important thing.

The two options are clear. You can give a little bit of effort to the task but less than you know you could’ve if you really wanted to and receive little value or pleasure from it, or you can make the best of the situation and give that utmost ability you know you can and, through that sacrifice and struggle, you learn much more valuable things. It’s the acquisition of wisdom.

Will you take the simpler, unfulfilling option? Or, the one that you know is the more stoic and ultimately rewarding choice? This isn’t easy, however noble or brave I can make it seem.

There’s a litany of different types of people about to start a new school year at NAIT. You may be 18 or 48, as I discovered on my first day on campus standing behind a 52-year-old guy in the student help desk, hoping to receive emergency student funding. Your situation might not be as dramatic but it’s still just as important.

This column reads like a ’50s sitcom with its gooey, moral lesson but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You will be kept very busy by your program this school year. Very busy. But if you aren’t going to school to be busy, then why are you here?

Your leisure time will be short. Will that preclude you from joining a club you’re interested in or from watching your student-athletes perform? Or, from stumbling into the Nugget office to ask us what we’re about and how you can help? That falls to you. Do the things that you enjoy doing in your spare time. Just actually do them, seek them out here on campus. The days you’re busy at school will likely have much more meaning and value for you years down the road if you put forth the effort you’re holding back. Luckily, it’s your decision.

– Michael Menzies, Senior Editor