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Tennis fitness

In all sport, fitness is critical. I actually developed a new term for a s specific shot I like in tennis. Nothing new, and good athletes do it all the time, but only because they can.

Today, I was practicing hitting targets while serving. For this specific serve, I aimed at my opponent’s back hand. I was serving to the ad side of the tennis court. Whenever I serve there, my opponent has a harder time returning the ball with his one hand backhand, and returns it a bit short. Knowing this, I rushed the net and was positioned to the right of the ball’s landing spot, in perfect location for a backhand down the line. Instead, though, liking my topspin forehand better just for the feel of the shot, I carefully moved around the ball, took my back swing, and drove the ball to the open court for a clear winner.

This is quite a routine shot for me. I prefer my forehand over my backhand, although I do spend a lot of time practicing my forehand. Yet, I started to think about what it takes to actually execute this shot. It really takes a lot, of fitness that is. Not only is the ball clearly on my backhand side, and I’d have to actually do little from my left side to drive the ball to the open court, but I have to move myself around the ball’s runaway to get to the right spot to hit the shot well. “Wow”, I thought to myself, “this is a real fitness shot”.

We all have different levels of fitness. I spend a lot of time on the exercise bicycle developing my endurance. I play hard and chase after balls on the tennis court too, so that I can be the fittest possible for my age. At 53, lots of my peers spend their entire days eating and drinking their way to Type II diabetes or heart disease. Although playing tennis, cycling, and skiing are no guarantees that I will be healthy and live a long life, they sure do keep me fit enough to have fun on and off the court. So, the next time you play tennis, try out the fitness shot and see if you can run around a ball and hit it to your target.

Tennis Reflections: November 22

Well, it’s been another week. I got to play three times this week. I am still improving, but I’ve embarked on yet another change to my game, which makes life tough again.

Each time I make a change, I take a step backwards. However, to move forward one must take steps backwards to destroy old habits. For me, this is my serve. I’ve made massive changes to my serve, but am still lacking. I have the worst aim, and am now addressing it. I had a mixed day. Although I served well in practice today, the first round, I had plenty of double faults the second time around. This was aided by harsh winds and the outdoor nets being lowered. To compensate, we used these sticks to raise the nets to proper height. However, we couldn’t do it perfectly and therefore the net was a bit high.

Sounds like a lot, no? Well, that’s the life of older tennis players like myself. We strive to improve and we play despite obvious circumstances. We are the backbone of the sport. It’s interesting, while we are not the best players, it’s guys like me who run the sport. Without us, tennis instructors wouldn’t have income. Without us, the racket manufacturers wouldn’t have people to buy their products. Without us, the tennis clubs wouldn’t survive. We aren’t as talented as the Division One players, the semi-pros and pros, but those folks do little to maintain the sport. Heck, they get their equipment and training for free. It’s guys like me who provide jobs for the tennis instructors who were not good enough themselves to be pros.

This week I learned a lot about my game. I learned my strengths. I am a faster old guy. I was never fast as a young person, but for a 52 year old, I can run fast. Indeed, I get pretty much every ball and am there in enough time to make the play. I’m also getting good at my service returns. However, I need to do a better job finishing my follow through on service returns, especially when I play against a hard server. I tend to hit quickly, without a good follow through. Other than that, the week was quite good.

This coming week, I have one training session with my coach, and then it’s off to the mountains. Ski season is upon us, and it’s time to focus on Giant Slalom. I’ll still play tennis weekly, as I love the progress I’ve made over the past year. However, it’s my mind that will turn to the slopes, not my motivation to play. Till next Sunday…

Meditations at the tennis court

It had rained yesterday, and the court had that peculiar smell to it after a good soaking. I sat stretching, my knees almost touching the ground as I stretched out my hips. This to me is the hardest stretch to do. I am extremely flexible except for my hips. So, that’s where I spend the most work.

Today it’s sunny. My sunshine returned after a day hiding behind the clouds. I know it’s not her fault that I couldn’t see her yesterday, but I missed her so much, and am really glad she’s back to light up my existence.

Today I was feeling quite down. I had a dream, and since dreams are not real, the realization of its futility sent me into a bit of a funk. Darkness is light’s friend, as it’s a reservoir for those facets of our self that are in need of altering or repair.

I moped around all morning as the clouds fought with each other to see who could get out of town the fastest. Clouds are like that; they can’t stay in any one place too long before getting bored and moving on. They must have a form of ADHD.

Unlike the clouds, Sunshine is always here. Even when hidden behind these massive pillows of cloudiness, she is still there, sending out her rays in many different and loving ways. When I feel her touch, I am like a child receiving a gift on my birthday. With my Sunshine, everyday is like my birthday.

Today, she came down, riding a ray of light and into my arms. I just held her so that she would know how much I missed her. I said not a word for a whole three moments while the two of us just felt the warmth of our bodies and our love caressing each other. It was nothing sexual; just pure affection.

It’s interesting how important touch is to people. Some people, though, cannot provide it or cannot experience it, or at least they think they cannot. Perhaps it is out of some pain or who knows what, but when they finally do, it brings out a stream of emotions that is hard to stop. For me, it is peace and universal love between two people, even when one is a powerful sun being.

Sunshine felt the warmth of my love for her. It’s a different kind of warmth than the warmth one feels when his tan skin is baked by the sun. My warmth was a mix of subtlety and omniscient. It was something my Sunshine needed, and it was something that I was proud to be able to give her whenever we had the chance to meet and embrace.  I too her chin in my hand and looked directly into her eyes and told her, “Sunshine, no words can express how much I love you except to say those three words over and over again. They are like the mantra I chant to bring me peace when under stress. You are my one and only love Sunshine.” I kissed her on the top of her head like I love to do. She took my hand in hers and just held it. Then, without another word, she rose back toward the sky, leaving me lost in reverie in little shape to play tennis. I did, and life goes forward. Love does that to a man.

Human Development: A Psychoadaptation perspective

Development is an interesting process. It begins with conception and ends when the individual’s last breath is taken, and the heart beats for the last time. Although there are many theories of development, each is wrought with flaws. For it is impossible for one to answer the ultimate question regarding causation. The constant tussle between science and ethics will not allow it. Thus, it is up to reason and experience to fill in the gaps. That, my reader, is what I will do here.

Development is a never ending process. Through development, one progresses from a poorly differentiated state to a highly differentiated state; a state in which each facet of the individual is clearly outlined and well defined. We will explore many examples in the coming chapters, but let’s take something I am familiar, mathematical competence.

Mathematics is not everyone’s favorite subject. Indeed, most people would rather eat raw sewage than learn how to calculate the variance of variable, or explore the nature of a slope. However, with practice, one slowly begins to appreciate mathematics, and as one conquers each progressively higher step in the process, one’s mathematical competence increases. This, my reader, is the essence of development; there is constant forward motion.

In addition to forward motion, there is differentiation, at least that’s what I promised, no? Well, there is. Let’s look again at mathematics. Some of us are more gifted than others, yet not all of us are gifted enough to master every skill in mathematics. Thus, there is differentiation in our abilities, and our competence beliefs. For instance, one may feel far more confident with statistics at the formulaic level than at calculus, which is the foundation of most statistical analysis. Thus, one may have a well developed statistics competence but a poorly developed calculus competence. This is differentiation.

Psychoadaptation deals well with the issue of development and competence beliefs. Interestingly, it is competence beliefs that are at the heart of all development. The more competent we feel, the more likely we are to approach challenge. The less competent we are, the more likely we are to eschew novel situations, particularly those that may result in failure. People hate failure, and will do everything possible to avoid it. Thus, if one doesn’t feel competent, she is less likely to approach potential failure than if one feels competent, thereby reducing the likelihood of development.

Competence beliefs are key to psychoadaptation. Psychoadaptation posits the existence of barriers in the path to development. Barriers are no more than mere hindrances that can curtail development. If one is ready to move forward in her development, regardless of domain, one will transcend the barriers. If, on the other hand, one is not ready to develop because the disequilibrium associated with moving forward is too profound, these barriers will become massive and covered with barbed wire. Nobody willingly places one’s self on the path to sure destruction.

Development from a psychoadaptation perspective is a violent act, destroying the old and replacing it with the new. In this book, my goal is to teach you about the nature of adaptation. Incorporating the perspectives of many of the foremost scholars in psychology, psychoadaptation is a creative synthesis. The ultimate aim, though, is to provide a practical theory that will allow those working in the field to help clients achieve a coherent and powerful sense of self.

Self is indeed the aim of this process. Self is the sum total of all of one’s competencies and self-identifications. A coherent self accepts all of one’s experiences, negative and positive. A powerful self is able to facilitate change, both in the self and in others. Although it is certainly important to change others at time, no change is possible unless one changes the self first. Thus, having a sense of self that is fluid and malleable is critical.

Human development thankfully is a life long process. We begin developing once we are conceived, when the sperm meets the ovum. From that point on, development takes off. Psychological development begins once the individual sees light for the first time. This development, however, depends on the individual’s environment, and its conduciveness to change. The more conducive to change, the more likely one is to develop in a positive sense. However, this propensity depends on one’s earliest systems, such as the home environment and daycare center. If these systems encourage development, it is likely to take place. If on the other hand they eschew development or even encourage the status quo, development will not take place. Thus, a very effective environment is one that actually provides the complexity needed to encourage and facilitate development.

A complex environment is key. Complex environments challenge the developing person’s beliefs. The worst possible situation is an individual who never encounters complexity and as a result believes that her premature perspective is well developed. Society provides ample opportunities for development. So long as one is exposed to them, the opportunity is there. If the developing individual agrees to challenge the self, the opportunity for development exists. If on the other hand the individual eschews such opportunities, development is likely to fail, for development requires transcending barriers. An absence of barriers, whether perceived or real is enough to derail development.

Each of us is born into a series of contexts. These contexts either encourage or limit development. However, even in limiting contexts, we continue to develop. Development is a natural process that is boundless. It is boundless, however, only if parents provide endless opportunities for development. If parents fail to do so, development will also fail.

This first chapter is an introduction into psychoadaptation. In the rest of this book we will discuss what it takes for an individual to move forward from the current sense of self to a higher self, one that will allow the individual to experience the highest form of development, what I like to call the oceanic feeling.

Throughout the rest of this book I will provide important lessons in self development. Equipped with years of research, theoretical knowledge, and practical experience, I will guide you through the self journey from the current self to the highest possible self. I hope, my reader, that you will not only move forward in your self-understanding but also actually move forward to a more profound sense of self, a sense of self that you deserve and void of pretensions.

Strap on your seat belt and let’s go for a ride!

Random thoughts of the day: July 14

Yes, it’s Bastille day. I know we are not French, but it is a holiday nevertheless, and it’s good to celebrate holidays. OK, so I was playing tennis today with my friend and coach Dan. We were at a high school in the Philadelphia suburbs. Football practice was going on behind us. I was hitting my serves and forehands really well, although I was and am still struggling with my two-hand backhand. Making the transition has not been easy, but I am seeing progress.

After working on serve and volleying, I proceeded to end the session with a game of 10 points. Either Dan or I would start the rally and one had to win the point. I was hitting well but starting to get tired. I guess that’s nothing extraordinary for a 51 year old man when playing with a 21 year old. I missed a couple of balls long, and this obese dude walking around the courts laughed at me out loud. Not once, but twice did he laugh. I was about to say something to him, but never got the opportunity. Honestly, all I wanted to say was that he should pay me for the entertainment.

Learning new skills is difficult, particularly when one is older and wishes to perform at a high level. I work hard to play my best all the time, and exercise intensely to achieve the fitness I need to withstand the pounding of a tennis session with a Division I athlete. I have fun playing tennis, and it’s my fantasy to play at a high level. As a youngster, my family couldn’t afford to give me the training I needed, not in tennis, martial arts, or anything for that matter. I had to work on my own to earn my lessons.

Today, as an older man with a teenage son, I actually work hard to afford the lessons necessary for my son to achieve skills in tennis, flying, and skiing. He is good enough at skiing to start teaching this year. He is good enough at flying to earn his private pilot’s license when he is of age. It’s tennis that requires some work with him. I am confident that within one year he will be well prepared to play high school tennis. I want him to be fit for a lifetime, just as I am. I may not have ever been good enough to achieve D1 status in sports, but at nearly 52, I’m in pretty damn good shape.

I guess that’s all I wanted to convey on this Tuesday evening. I love sport and exercise, and have incorporated it into my life. I think we should all do the same. I know it’s hard to go from sitting on one’s butt to moving like one really means it, but if you try hard enough you can achieve it. Trust me on this one 🙂

Thinking about the 2014-2015 ski season

The 2014-2015 season is nearly upon us. I’d like to see more people on the slopes this year than last year. I understand that some of my readers fear skiing or boarding. It is true that one can get hurt and that pain is somewhat inevitable. Yet, despite these potential drawbacks of my favorite winter pastime, the fun of cruising the slopes far outweighs any potential risks. To truly enjoy skiing, and I’ll focus on skiing instead of boarding, one must take one’s time to learn to ski correctly, and with the guidance of a professional. That means, investing in lessons!

I have come to love skiing. Like many of my peers, I started as a youth (albeit older at 18) but never really spent the time or money to become really good. It was probably more the money and the distance to the slopes that kept me from mastering skiing.

I grew up in Washington, DC, not too close to any major resort. As an adult, however, I moved to Pennsylvania, where skiing is more commonplace. Then, for a period of two years, I lived in New England. This coupled with my son’s excitement about skiing resulted in my advancing beyond a beginner and intermediate to the lower advanced skier I am today. I have no regrets! Regrets? Are you kidding? I live for the slopes in the winter!!!

Skiing is an amazing sport, but it does require getting used to speed and the risk of falling. It also requires one to conquer a fear of heights/steepness. We spend lots of time skiing steeper slopes. Indeed, conquering the fear of steeps in my view is the major task in progressing from the lower to upper levels of skiing.

OK, so I am suggesting that people start skiing. I want people not just to ski once, but to ski every year for the rest of their lives. Living in colder climates means that there are many winter months spent awaiting spring. Skiing allows one to enjoy those winter months instead of dreading their presence. Indeed, I can’t wait for winter, just like many can’t wait for summer. I have as much fun in the winter as I do in the summer. Thus, my life has become a 12 month thing. I love every month of every year. Skiing, though, took quite a bit of time to master. One wise, albeit quite drunk skier, told me that skiing is easier to learn than snowboarding but harder to master. I agree. I learned to ski quickly, but getting to the higher levels has been a challenge. For one, I had a strong fear of heights. Not so much anymore. Because of skiing, I actually like tackling steeper slopes. I just go down slopes, and as fast as I can at my level. I still need to master edge skiing further, but I have started, and that has made skiing even more fun.

Skiing is a great sport to share with your family too. If you have children, teaching them to ski will give you an additional benefit. Further, when you can go on trips with them, and ski down big slopes together, you will feel a feeling that few experience. It’s one of my favorite times to be on a slopes, chasing my son who of course is better than I am.

Perhaps the hardest part of skiing in my view was overcoming my fear of speed. I often see beginners screaming as they go down their first steeper slopes, as if the skis control them instead of the person controlling the skis. We are each in charge of our own performance. I can stop skiing at any point on any slope. Just like when I learned that letting go of a sail whilst sailing would allow my boat to stop still in the ocean, a quick skid turn or pizza form will stop the skier on any slope. Yet, there are many a beginner skier who goes down steeper beginner and even intermediate slopes without knowing how to stop. Learning how to stop is essential to gaining confidence on a slope. Once one learns to stop, one begins to fear the slopes less. Just think about it in terms of driving a car. We stop on all sort of hills. One does the same skiing by digging one’s edges into the snow. Letting go increases speed, whereas digging in grips the skier to the terrain and results in a stop.

In addition to learning to stop well, going down some steeper beginner slopes will reduce fear of the steeps. All resorts are different, and what’s a green (beginner) trail on one mountain, is a blue on another mountain. Yet, steep is steep. If you feel it’s steep, then it’s steep. Going down steeper slopes, using fundamental techniques to turn and stop, will make the matter much easier, and increase confidence. Once confidence in steeper slopes is attained, skiing goes from a fearful experience to a “I can’t wait for the next time” event.

At this time, I’m into my fourth year of heavy skiing. Each year, my son and I have vowed to ski more than the last year. Each year, we’ve improved too. We’ve had our share of lessons and will take more. We each want to be the best we can, and I’ve certainly given this old body another reason to enjoy living. I think learning to ski, or board, is one of the best gifts one can give the self. The key, though, is having a good instructor. There are lots of good places to go. You just need to say yes.

Meditations on Walking and Thinking

I like to go for walks. Indeed, I just returned from a nice walk on the canal and into New Jersey. Walking has always had a special place in my life. From as early as I can remember, I’d go for long walks. I’d walk to school every morning, a bit less than a mile from our McLean Gardens apartment to John Eaton Elementary School, instead of taking a bus or having my parents drive me. My friends and I would walk from our homes down to the Volta Park Pool in Georgetown during the summer, 2.3 miles away. We’d often walk back as well even after a long day of playing in the pool. Thus, walking had become a part of my sense of self since I was a school-aged boy.

As a teenager, my family moved to Arlington, VA, living in a modest house on North Cleveland Street. Although now I was a bit further from my favorite DC attractions, this had little impact on my passion for walking. Indeed, in college I walked to school at George Washington University (2.6 miles away). Later, when I stayed with my mom in Rosslyn for a stint whilst back from college in San Diego, working at the Sheraton Carlton Hotel on 16th street, I’d walk to work and back too (3 miles each way). So I walked and walked about, pounding the dirty pavement and ruining good shoes. I even started going for long walks around the city’s tourist attractions on days off, making stops at the Smithsonian museums and shops along the way. After a long stroll through the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building, for instance, I’d walk to Georgetown past travel agencies and expensive restaurants, imagining what life would be like if I could eat at the best places in exotic foreign lands. Walking gives one lots of time to think. Indeed, for me, walking and thinking became inseparable; eventually I could not have one without the other.

Walking and thinking reinforced each other. Once I started walking, thinking immediately followed. However, it wasn’t just thinking about the mundane issues in life, like where I’d stop for a coffee. I thought about big issues. I hypothesized and reasoned the conclusions. Like a philosopher of old, eschewing empiricism, I came to marvelous conclusions in my mind. I’d cherish this time to think and even planned out what I’d be thinking during my walks. For instance, before going home from a long shift at Carlton, and passing through Georgetown, I’d already set my mind on the stream of consciousness I sought to pursue that afternoon. I would then enjoy the time to think as I walked down Connecticut Avenue and picked the specific street I’d walk to eventually arrive in Georgetown and the Key Bridge. I solved many of the world’s most pressing problems during those walks. It’s only a shame I couldn’t implement all that I did mentally in the world outside my ears. I was a bit too naïve those days, but those mental pushups really built up my strength for the work I’d eventually do as a researcher.

Today, as I sit here writing, I still walk and think every day. Life unfortunately leads us in various directions, some of which preclude us doing what we used to do with passion. I live far from the city now and spend much time driving. Although I have time to think whilst driving, I seem to indulge in sports talk radio a bit too much whenever I get behind the wheel of my car. I never formed that connection between driving and thinking as I have with walking, although I do enjoy driving for its own sake. Thus, I still go for walks to think, albeit much shorter in duration than in the former times. However, whenever I get away from home, traveling to different cities for a conference, I still go off on long walks before attending to business, just like I did as a young man in D.C. When I do so, I still solve pressing problems, come up with amazing hypotheses, and even plans for my next manuscript. Unlike my younger age however, some of these ideas do come to fruition. I have learned to reduce the scope of my ambitions and have become quite realistic in my mental exercises. Thus, walking still is my place to think, and I now urge my students to do the same too. Any student who has ever had me as a professor knows my favorite saying, “take concepts learned in class out for a walk”. I urge them to challenge theorists and textbook writers by putting ideas learned in class to the test of experience. Don’t just read, I’d profess, read and then think deeply about the ideas. Connect them to your life and personal experiences. Not only will this help you maintain the material in long term memory by forming deep connections with strong memories, but it will also allow you test the concepts for validity. If it doesn’t make sense in the real world, the theory has little value, I’d say. That goes for everything, including what I’m writing here. Take it out for a walk, preferably to a pretty place if possible.

Steeps and self

OK, today is just another day in life. A nice glass of Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, and I feel calm. I love wines from Argentina, my father’s homeland. Malbec is the wine equivalent of the craft beer IPA to me.[1] Most can’t fathom these intense tastes but I can. I am genetically programmed to favor intense flavors, and that’s a good thing I guess. I feel the same about life, yet the way I define intensity is different from most. For the anhedonic amongst us, it means jumping off cliffs or diving headlong out of airplanes. I’m not like that at all. That is quite intense indeed. Yet, I don’t need that extra rush to feel alive. I feel alive with normal human interactions, for thankfully I’m not anhedonic.

My life is much simpler than an anhedonic’s in that I experience pleasure from normal activities. A good wine does it for me, as does a good meal with the right mix of vegetables, spices, and proteins. I also find pleasure in a good hike or a simple trip down a cruiser skiing. I don’t need any extra push like diving off a cliff to feel alive. I am alive and life provides enough intensity for me to feel it. Yet, skiing has done something special for me. It has actually pushed me in ways I’ve never been pushed before. However, my approach to life has made it a lot less intense than what is seen in those awesome Warren Miller films. Let me explain.

Skiing is a special sport. It requires quite some time to master. Recently, a young sage who may have been drunk at the time put it well; snowboarding is hard to learn but easy to master, whereas skiing is easy to learn but hard to master. I first learned to ski (took lessons) when I was 18 and went skiing very sporadically since then, taking many years off until skiing again. Recently, when my son was 10, we started skiing again, but this time with quite some intensity. Indeed, I remember the time we were at Camelback resort in Pennsylvania, and my son was taking a lesson. He was a fourth grader in the 4th and 5th grade PA skiing program. Unlike optimistic parents, I was expecting him to hate it. At the scheduled end of the lesson, I along with the other parents waited for our children’s return. My son, contrary to my expectation though, emerged stoked. He wanted to ski more. I, noticing his excitement, immediately obliged. We did a couple of more runs down the bunny slope before retiring for the day, and then returned the next week and the next until the season was over. It was love at first ski for my son. I eagerly participated, as his happiness is always mine.

Since that time, we have advanced rapidly. Over the past three years, he has had his share of lessons at various resorts in Pennsylvania and New England. I advanced in parallel, although without lessons; my son actually shares what he learns in his lessons with me, being an informal instructor for me. I have really struggled to keep up with him, but I made huge strides too; he is certainly a far better than skier than I am, even though he is obviously much younger. First, afraid of anything that looked mildly steep, I dared not ski down even the tamest steep. With time, though, I started skiing everything. I now am not afraid of pretty much anything. Although still learning, I have overcome my fear of the steep. What a wonderful feeling it is. I am actually feeling exhilarated. I never thought I would, but I do.

I recall when my fear first left me. My son and I were skiing in Brettonwoods, NH, just below Mount Washington. We were going down one of the green trails, Range View, that has quite a steep start, at least for my level at the time. Fearing the worst, I avoided the start and took an alternative route to the main slope instead. I loved the slope though, as it was wide and gave me the cruising experience I craved. My son told me, however, to follow him as he went down the start of the slope, and I did. After conquering that steep start, I was hooked forever. Indeed, I began to ski everything no matter how steep it was. I learned to control my speed and to feel comfortable standing still on any ledge. That made skiing fun for me. Feeling in control was what I sought, and achieving control made skiing a pleasure I wanted to do over and over again, rather than a chore I just wanted to end.

Learning to ski a steep slope is the ultimate experience of psychological adaptation. Initially, I feared the slope, feeling disequilibrium when I stood on its apex. Heights are not our friends, as we can hurt ourselves easily, particularly when on human-made tools like skis that are designed to propel us forward at high speeds. However, learning to control ourselves down steep slopes helps us to experience equilibrium where there was once disequilibrium. Disequilibrium occurs when we are afraid to fall, equilibrium occurs when we realize we can maintain control on a steep. I learned that this year.

This year my major accomplishment in skiing was to conquer my fear of the steeps. I did that and feel much more comfortable now than ever before. I couldn’t wait to hit the slopes each weekend and cannot wait to do it again next year. Indeed, if I had the funds, I’d go to my father’s native Argentina now and ski the Andes; it’s winter down there when it’s summer here. I was, however also quite fortunate this year, at the end of the season, to meet a very giving instructor who began to teach me to ski the right way. Bored out of his mind one Saturday morning late PA season, he found an eager student and gave me a nearly three hour private lesson. It was amazing, but ironically instead of feeling better about my skiing, I now I feel like a beginner again, albeit a beginner with some skills. He immediately observed all of my flaws, flaws seen in individuals creating their own skiing styles. That’s what happens when one eschews instruction. Well, I want to ski the right way. Therefore, I am currently learning to meld what I learned from my benevolent with what I learned on my own recently into a higher level skier. Actually, I was invited by this caring instructor to teach this coming winter, and I plan to do so.

I am a natural teacher, and in teaching I’ve encountered pretty much all there is to encounter. Thus, I have quite a bit of teaching wisdom, although more so in the classroom than on the slopes. If I want to be a great ski instructor too, I have to achieve the same state on the slopes, though. Well, the more one skis, the more diverse one’s skiing experience. The more terrain one traverses, the more efficient one becomes at skiing. One must adapt to all circumstances to become an excellent skier, just as one must experience different students asking different questions to become an exceptional instructor. I’m committed to both and will try anything that will make me a better instructor. Indeed, as developmental psychologist Jean Piaget once said, life is adaptation. I plan to continue adapting. I’ve moved from pizza to fries in multiple circumstances on the slopes, and that has been a gift that enhanced my real self, not just in skiing but in life in general. Self is ever in flux. Today’s self is not the same as the self in one year’s time, one month, one week, or from day to day. Yet, experiences such as conquering the steeps and learning to ski on edges, have brought me closer to the state I hope to achieve. Self is about adapting, the self today is a mere point on the road to the ultimate self. That self, although achievable, is an ever distant goal. Each day is one day closer yet one day further from the hilt. Our target changes as we progress. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I’ll sure continue having fun on the road.

 


[1] By the way, I do know that IPAs are old, not a craft beer fad.

The End of a Semester

Students can’t wait for it. For professors, it means more work. We have to grade papers and final exams. However, that’s nothing compared to the pain of deciding upon a student’s final grade. Obviously, we are all different. For some professors, there is no issue failing a student who deserves an F. For me, it’s never easy. I think of the money the student spends (or future money in a loan), the pain of having to take the course again, and of course the awkwardness of telling the student that she isn’t good enough to pass the course when she comes into my office to complain about her grade. It’s of course made harder if she tries hard but she just can’t do it.

We’ve all been there, my faculty colleagues and I. We all experience the same dread. Perhaps some of us are better at it than others; that’s what heterogeneity means. Still, and perhaps sadly, we all develop thick skin in the end. Time seems to create scars. These scars harden and allow us to not feel. That’s a good thing in that it helps us to be more objective. Subjectivity is a sad reality for the novice.

I feel great empathy for my students. Yet, I am no novice. However, my empathy makes me sad when it comes to not allowing students to move forward. Obviously, it is the student’s own fault. As a student, I never faced the same problem as I always studied harder and did the best possible to not allow myself to fail. Indeed, failure was never even remotely possible for me. That’s how I got where I am today.

This is truly a difficult time. However, with the end of each semester comes the start of a new semester and a new set of students. I told my stats students this recently. I let them know that teaching has it’s positive and negative facets. On the positive side, one gets a new group of students each semester. Thus, teaching never grows stale, like a loaf of bread in a dry cupboard. On the negative side, one’s relationship with the present group of students ends. Professors are always in a state of renewal. One group comes, one group goes, and another group comes. This cycle is ever repeating until we finally retire and go off and die. Odd is life; it’s like a wave of ebbs and flows.

Well, this is the choice I made for my career, and I love it. I am happy when my students do well, and I feel the extreme pain of each student who doesn’t make the grade. Like a judge, I sentence students to repeat courses, and that really hurts. However, it is good pain as I know in the long run they will learn from it and become better people. Yet, it still hurts. That’s what it’s like to be a good professor. I take my work seriously.