On Typing

“You either live life—bruises, skinned knees and all—or you turn your back on it and start dying.” – Captain Christopher Pike

This line, from the pilot episode of Star Trek, pops up again in Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The line has some resonance for me, especially as I get older. It is tempting to tell myself I’m too old to learn new skills, but that’s not true. One skill I plan on honing: typing. A recent text chat with a longtime friend brought up the topic of typing, and since we were using text as a way of communicating, the message that came through loud and clear was that I suck at typing.

I never took typing in high school because there was never time for it in my schedule. Half of my school day was taken up with music classes (concert choir, jazz band, wind ensemble, etc.); I had to take both summer school and night school just to squeeze in my required history courses. Typing seemed like a class for students with no higher aspirations than secretarial work. How wrong I was!

These days, we spend a lot of time typing on computers and smartphones, and I wish I were better at it. The need for solid typing skills has never been made more apparent than in these past few weeks, when most communication cannot be done face-to-face, and we must rely on the written word more than ever.

Some time ago, I gave some advice on how to succeed in college. I would like to add to that list: Learn to type! It is a skill that will serve you well! I am taking this advice myself. There are plenty of online sites that will teach you to type, many of them free. I am currently using typing.com. I’m sure your local library also has books and tools to help you learn to type, so once they are open again you can take advantage of that resource.

Yes, even an old dog like me can learn new tricks!

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufresne and “Red” Redding

College Advice from Someone Who Sucked at College

I did well in high school. I’ve done well on all the standardized tests I’ve taken (PSAT, SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT). I did terrible at college. To be fair to myself, I did manage to finally earn my BS, graduating Magna Cum Laude, but it took me three different colleges to get there. Since then, even though I’ve taken a smattering of postgraduate classes, I still don’t have my Masters. I’ve jumped from program to program. I’ve been accepted into universities then dropped out before even classes even began. My school record at this point is so spotty that I’d have to grovel and beg to be accepted into a community college or for-profit school. (That wasn’t meant as a slam again community colleges and for-profit schools, simply an acknowledgement that their entrance requirements tend to be not very stringent.) In the process of doing college poorly, I’ve learned some things that might help students just entering university do college well.

First, you must accept a few unpleasant facts:

  • You will have some bad teachers.
  • You will have some unpleasant classmates.
  • You will have some classes—usually required ones—that literally put you to sleep.
  • Group projects suck.
  • Grading is not always fair.

So my first piece of advice is this: Stick with it anyway! That’s also my second, third and fourth piece of advice.

Also:

  • College will offer you all sorts of awesome travel opportunities; take advantage.
  • Join on-campus groups and clubs.
  • You might be meeting people of different nationalities, races, and religions for the first time. Embrace that.
  • There are wonderful online sources to help you, BUT…
  • Don’t cheat. Don’t cheat. Don’t cheat.
  • Use the library! Use the librarians!
  • Attend as many free lectures, concerts, and student productions as possible.
  • Experiment with subjects that are new to you.
  • You may discover that your first choice of a major is wrong for you. Feel free to switch, but don’t obsess about getting it exactly right. It’s more important to complete your undergraduate degree with a major in a field you later abandon than to waste years dithering (my big downfall).
  • Stick with it.

College has become insanely expensive. It’s not hard to find voices that argue against going at all. And it’s not for everybody. But for most people, I think it can still be a great life experience. Stick with it.