The Question about Truth

I ran into one of my old professors at Barnes and Noble the other day.  He works there part time because that is how much he loves books.  So every now and then I run into him, and he is always happy to see me.  He always asks me if I am still writing, and he always tells me to write more.   He teaches LAR, which is a general writing and literature class that all freshman at USF have to take.  So I am honored that after five years of teaching many different freshman, I am still one of his more memorable students.  He was the first professor to tell me that my writing was good, and he has been encouraging me ever since.  When I started writing satire pieces for the school newspaper, he always read them and always told me the same thing, “keep writing.”

However, the other day he told me it was more than just my writing that vaulted me to his student hall of fame.  It was my response to the question he asks every class on the first day.  He asked if I remembered, I said vaguely.   He told me that every year he writes the word truth on the board, and asks his students to come up and write in one word what the word truth means to them.  He told me every year he has waited for someone to have a better answer than me, but no one has yet.  The scene was starting to come back to me.  I could see a shy freshman me, nervous to go up to the board because I hadn’t yet learned how to share my thoughts.  But I couldn’t remember what I wrote.  I felt a little guilty that over five years and hundreds of students, this professor thought I had the best answer and I couldn’t even remember what it was.  As if to rub salt in my wound, he asked me if I remembered what word I wrote.  Ashamed, I said I didn’t.  “Void,” he said, “You wrote that truth is void.”

I have always been a little bit of a rebellious thinker, the type that likes to think outside of the box.  So while this didn’t quite surprise me, I was curious as to what freshman me thought when she wrote that truth is void.  I know I didn’t mean truth is void in the sense that the world is a hopeless place where you can’t trust anything or anyone.  I wasn’t quite that angsty as a teenager.  And although I wasn’t a science major, I do know that there are some truths in science that are more or less absolute.

Truth is a big word, one that is scary for me to talk about without people thinking that I have completely dropped off the deep end.  But I am going to try, so here it goes.

Since I relate my thinking to the social sciences, I think I meant that social truths are more static than we like to believe.  Meaning that truth can so easily be skewed depending on the perception we have at the time.  There is no absolute truth when it comes to our perception of the world.

Let me give you an example of this from my own life to better make sense of this.  I was a criminal justice major, and like so many people in America, I believed that criminals deserved to be locked up.  Then I spent over a year working in a penitentiary, and my perception changed.  Because suddenly I didn’t see inmates as dangerous people who made the world a worse place.  I knew a lot of inmates that were better people than some of the people that strut around in a suit and tie.  Suddenly I saw inmates as the people that society had forgotten about.  The people who grew up in foster care or on the streets.  The people that we as society don’t know how to deal with so instead we just hide them behind prison bars.

My perception changed, and so did the truth attached to it.  Now it breaks my heart if someone tells me that they think a criminal deserves to be locked up.  I just want to shake them and say, “You don’t even know what you are talking about.  You have no idea of the horrors that are locked in the closets of their childhood.  Who are you to judge?  You who have grown up with a place to call home and a family that loves you and supports you.  Who are you to say what they deserve, because it certainly wasn’t the childhood that they got.  So yes they grew up as deviants, but who is to say that you would have not turned out the same if you were in their shoes?”   But I don’t, I just bite my tongue and try to offer grace because I know they do not have the same perceptions as me.

My point is that sometimes we can think one thing to be true until we experience something that shows us a different side that we never considered.  So I don’t want you to think that I am saying we should never believe anything.  Not at all.  Instead I want you to look at the world with open eyes and discover what it is that you believe and why.  Because I think so often we accept things as “truth” because we are told to, but we never stop to think why we believe something to be true.

Maybe it is just the way I am wired to see the world as gray instead of just blank and white.  Maybe for others truth is more set in stone.  But for me I have to analyze everything from every point of view before I am willing to set an opinion on something.

Truth is a big word, one that holds a lot of punch because truth holds such promise.  It is the promise of something to believe in, something to put our faith and hope in, something that we can trust to always be true.  Until one morning we wake up and realize just how empty truth can really be when we just accept it without hesitation.

So five years later, do I still believe that truth is void?  Yes, yes I do.  This is just some thoughts about truth, but if truth is indeed based on our perceptions, then I would love to hear yours.  How do you view truth?  In keeping with my professors original question, what one word do you associate with truth?  Please leave your comments below I would love to hear them.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting . . . to Graduate

Here is to everyone who is about to graduate college only to realize that they will have no idea what to do with their lives.  When you start your senior year, you will realize that you have no idea what you want to do with your life, and when you finish your senior year you will realize that you still have no idea what you want to do with your life.  You kept telling yourself that everything will fall into place, but then you are a month away from graduating and nothing has fallen into place yet.  You will then wonder what you spent the last nine months doing besides figuring out your life.  Then you remember all the sleepless nights packed with homework after a full day of class and just getting off another 8-hour shift. And you will wonder how you are suppose to figure out your life when you can’t even get one minute to think about it.   To make matters worse, you get bombarded with the never ending parade of well meaning questions, in which you are suppose to explain your non-existent and ever change plan.  You try to sputter out a couple of ideas that you don’t really plan on doing but sound good so that it gives the illusion that you will be doing something with the college degree you spent 4 years and thousands of dollars trying to get.  Apparently taking a few months off so that you can enjoy being dumb and young and have time to figure out what you want in life and regain your mental sanity from not sleeping the last four years, is not a viable option.  Suddenly you find yourself stuck in an emotionally turmoil because on one hand you are ready to be done with school but you are not ready to be done with school.  Some days you will feel nostalgic about leaving all of the people you have meet and all of the good memories you have had with them.  Other days you will be so over this place that you can’t wait to leave.  Some days you will feel motivated to find an actual career to start.  Other days you will say screw it, I am just going to be gypsy and live in the wild where I never have to make any decisions.  Every day you will hate going to class because you don’t learn anything, until you realize that you are graduating and you HAVEN”T LEARNED ANYTHING.

The thing is everyone will tell you different things. “You need to find a career right after you graduate or your degree will become useless.”  “Don’t settle for any job, wait for THE right job.”  “Maybe you should just take a few months off to do what you want to do.”  “Maybe you should go to grad school while you are still use to being in school.”  “Maybe you should just run away to Africa and start a life with the tigers so you never have to decide what to do with your life.”  Oh wait, that last one was me.  But my point is that everyone will tell you what you should do, but not everyone will agree.  For the last 20 year you have lived your life by someone telling you what you should do.  But what no one tells you is that when you graduate, only you can tell yourself what you will do when you graduate.  There is no magic formula to follow on when you should start your job and what kind of job you should start.  There is just you.  That is what is most terrifying, because only you can decide and you are the one person who has no idea what you want. What is it that you really want?  And I mean really want, deep in your core.  If you can figure that out, I promise the rest will fall into place.

I feel like an idiot because I keep changing my mind.  But the truth is I just haven’t found my place yet.  I guess I just keep hoping that one day I will find something and it will stick.  I don’t want to settle, I want to live an extraordinary life.  So I keep hoping that maybe one day I will wake up, look in the mirror, and feel in my heart that this is exactly where I am suppose to be.  Even if it is messy and imperfect, I want to be in that place where I know I have followed my crazy idea of what my life should be.  I want to do things that other did believe I could do, thing that maybe I didn’t even believe I could do.  If you are lucky like me you will have a professor who believes in your so much that they tell you to shoot for the stars because they believe you might actually make it there.  And they will tell you to plan your life like there are no obstacles in your way.  I think everyone needs to be told that.  Because in reality the only person who has the power to limit what you can do with your life is you.  I know that sounds like a naïve college student, but trust me.  Everyone who has ever been famous enough to leave a lasting impression on the world did so because they did not allow anyone else to place a limit on what they could do.  My old friend Steve says this so much better than me:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.  Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. “  – Steve Jobs