Last week my family and I toured several college campuses in the Southeast quadrant of the United States. My daughter Ava is entering her senior year of high school this fall. So she needs to find her next home after we kick her out of the nest.
Each school we visited had interesting and unique qualities. And I discovered how much has changed since my college days. And I’m not just talking about social media and Chick-fil-A on campus.
When I was in college at the University of Wisconsin, back before cell phones, you either had a declared major or you were considered undecided. Like a voter who dislikes all the candidates. But today at the University of Tennessee, you either have a declared major or you are on the exploratory track. And I love a good exploration.
During my first 3 semesters of college, I thought I knew what I wanted to study. But I wasn’t enjoying it. So in the spring of my sophomore year, I decided not to take any classes in that major. Instead, I took a broad range of classes that I thought sounded interesting. This included classes in psychology, zoology, sociology, journalism, and philosophy. It was my self-made exploratory track. And it changed my life.
I enjoyed all of the classes. But I discovered that I loved my classes in psychology (Psych 101) and journalism (Mass Media and the Consumer). I decided to declare majors in both areas. (Although I still think that declaring is something that should be left to Founding Fathers and refined Southern women.)
I have been using what I learned in my two areas of study every day of work for my entire career in advertising.
The University of Tennessee visit reminded me of my own academic journey. And it reminded me that we should all spend more time in our own exploratory programs.
Areas of Exploration
Dating: Before you get married you should spend time exploring romantic relationships. By dating different types of people you discover what you do and don’t like and who you could live with for 50 years without stabbing.
Travel: Spend your life exploring new places to find the places you enjoy and to gain new perspectives on people, places and access to public toilets.
Food: Explore new foods, new restaurants, and new recipes. Opening your mouth to new foods will often open up your mind too. It helps you understand different flavors, ingredients and cultures. And it reminds you that on a dollar-per-pound basis, nothing beats pizza.
Friends: Explore new friendships, always. Everyone you meet has the opportunity to add new benefits to your life. But if you meet people who are really into that Netflix series on Jeffrey Dahmer I suggest you move quickly in the opposite direction.
Home: Explore different places and spaces to discover what feels most right to you. After college, I lived in 4 apartments and owned 5 homes in 3 different states. My current home is my favorite by far. But the first 4 homes helped me discover the size, style, layout, and yard I wanted. Exploration also helped me discover the state I wanted to be in (Wisconsin). Although recent exploration suggests that my next home should be in Switzerland. Next to Heidi and the Von Trapps.
Activities: Explore what you like to do in your free time. There are thousands of different hobbies and pastimes to enjoy other than watching TV and playing Pickleball. Explore them. Discover what activities provide you joy, entertainment, and fulfillment.
Spend more time in exploration mode. Look for new people, places, activities and things to add to your life to enrich your experience on Earth. Approach life like a college student. Keep your eyes, heart and mind open to discovering more of the great things that will add to your world.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.