Remember the words of Yogi Berra: It ain't over till it's over
The New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra is one of the most quoted figures in the sports world. His deceptively simply words often masked a deeper meaning. When unforeseen circumstances arise, his truism can be applied to many situations we all confront over the course of a lifetime —”It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Each day brings the news of more layoffs. Individuals who may have presumed job security now face a future that is less than certain. Although difficult, it is important to resist depression and tap inner resources. In his Inauguration speech, President Obama quoted from the Depression era film, “ Swing time,” with a call for us to “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
Many people have done just that. One example is how a resourceful botanist dealt with being laid off from a long-held position at a chemical plant: he began to cultivate indigenous winter hearty orchids in his pool. Soon realizing his passion was a specialized niche, he now has written a book on this topic, and gives lectures around the country. Another resourceful individual set up her own dog-walking and pet-sitting business, a far cry from her former life as the manager of a large office. As a pet lover, she approaches her new vocation with enthusiasm.
Bucks County Community College (BCCC) (where I teach several courses) has given a wonderful opportunity to county residents who have been laid off. This semester, they offered one year’s free tuition to these individuals, a savings of $3,000. A number of my students are taking advantage of this opportunity. Each holds a master’s degree from a different discipline, and the experience and knowledge they bring to every session is invaluable to the entire class.
Families going through a transition can help prepare their children, by teaching them the important life lesson that the late Mr. Berra shared. Yes, it is not over until it is over.
In the next several weeks, seniors in high school will receive letters letting them know if they have been admitted or not to the colleges of their choice. Some will learn scoring high on the SAT or having a high grade point average does not mean the Ivies are knocking; nor will some young athletes, primed since grade school, be playing an intercollegiate sport.
When faced with thin envelopes, numerous hard-working students become angry and wonder if all the effort they put in was worth it. Others may become depressed and think life is over at 18. Too often children are raised with a now-or-never philosophy, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Being brought up with a more realistic perspective would help: there is reward in the experience of doing the work itself.
This year, in particular, many families hoping to see their progeny attend an expensive private school have had to make other choices. Some disappointment is inevitable, yet spending four years at a somewhat less expensive state college or two years at a community college should not be looked down upon. Researching other options can provide unexpected benefits — honors programs, the opportunity of student-generated research, or the discovery of potential added incentives, such as a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at BCCC, an honor bestowed on only 10 percent of the nation’s colleges.
Likewise, students who may have been under performing at one stage or another need to be assured they have not reached the end of a road. A close friend has a daughter who, after a less than stellar high school career, is now about to go off to college, Her grades never reflected her potential until she took an advanced anatomy class offered through Pennsylvania State University. This young girl came home from her PSU classes vibrant and ready to share what she had learned. Stimulated by the dissections, a childhood dream of becoming a doctor was rekindled, and with her new focus, report cards, instead of being mediocre, were replete with the highest grades. However, with low test scores, and without the required standard high school achievements, her college options were limited. The addition of the Penn classes made all the difference, and gave her a wider range of college choices.
This young lady’s story is quite common. Until the curtain is about to fall on high school, many students have what could be considered a “failure to thrive.” This situation presents a quandary — whose glum message and accompanying anxiety begins to be felt toward the beginning of the senior year, when college application time is in full swing. Such a student can be at risk, falling into a state of depression, anxiety, or outright defiance.
Parents facing disappointment at what they might perceive as a child’s failure, may respond with, “I told your so,” or “Why didn’t you listen to me?” It is not difficult to understand the frustration felt by these parents, whose dreams for their child may be perceived as sliding away. However, parental anger and obvious disapproval rather than seeking solutions can exacerbate the situation. Since many young people find themselves in the same boat as my friend’s child, exchanging solutions with other parents may be helpful.
The personal statement section on most college applications is a place where a student can share the ramifications of a specific situation in a truthful and candid manner.
Several years ago, one very bright and sensitive young girl became severely depressed during her freshman year of high school and even attempted suicide. Fortunately, what could have been a horrific tragedy was a wake-up call, and she began needed therapeutic intervention.
Over the next several years she developed insight into the reasons for her actions. As a more healthy self-esteem surfaced, she could talk about her past with confidence and see a brighter future. In the process of presenting herself to colleges, she wrote an insightful essay, and included a supplemental art portfolio. Accepted to a highly regarded university, she was pivotal in starting a Woman’s Study department, and now teaches at the very same high school she attended decades ago. A well-documented and revelatory essay is a risk worth taking.
Going full circle back to Mr. Berra, perhaps this is a good time to put into practice the saying, “It ain’t over till its over.” With so many people needing to come to grips with life changes and perhaps seeking a new source of income, let us use this time to teach our young and encourage those going through transitions that when confronted with situations beyond our control, or ones of our making we would like to change, take a leap and forge ahead. There is no absolute security. No more than we can predict the weather can we predict what lies ahead. Be prepared of course, but be open to the fact things may not turn out as planned. With an open heart, we can make each tomorrow a new adventure.