Monday, September 17, 2007

Thick Head, Thin Ice

I am skeptical of any occasion than requires me to think about what I am going to say in advance. I like spontaneity, creativity, and freedom. Who wants to live a scripted life? However, I did think a little bit about what I would say to Brooke as we parted ways in Chicago.

I could have burdened her with the "You are being given such a wonderful opportunity here. I hope you understand the sacrifices that are being made on your behalf. I expect you to take this seriously and study hard." You get the drift. Had I said this to her, she would have rolled her eyes at me and given me that look that means nothing other than stop with the bullshit. She would never respond positively to such a plea on my part.

I could have given her the "We love you and we are proud of you. Anything that you want to do is fine with me; just be happy." This is a nice thought on the surface, but it is way to mushy for Brooke, and for me too.

So, we began our walk behind the bagpipes with me resorting to the tried and true spontaneous moment. As I gave her a hug, the words that came out of my mouth were, "Try to learn to be a team player." This sounds a little stupid since this kid has been a part of many sports TEAMS since she was four. She was the soccer team captain last year, a position that she did not want but that the coaches wanted her to have. She was perfectly happy taking her place in the goal box and waiting for someone to either slam a ball into her face or body slam her into the ground. Enduring the physical abuse that a goalie takes was much more appealing to Brooke than having to be caught up in the drama of the field players.

In class, she always does her best, but she is not one to engage in dialogue or discussion. She believes that everyone is entitled to their opinion. If she disagrees with you it really doesn't matter and she will not put forth any energy to discuss it. She thinks what she thinks and that is all that really matters.

Although, maybe my advice wasn't so bad after all. She is in an environment where there is much to be gained by joining the team, a team that will allow you to push your personal limits and the limits of academia. Perhaps she will realize that. There are places where nonconformity is beneficial, but there are also many places where it is not.

After we left her and I was pondering my last minute advice, we passed this sign while walking through campus. On a campus that has been home to 78 Nobel Prize winners, the need for such a warning made me laugh. On the literal level, it may be good advice for the girl from Texas who thinks that she does not need a heavy coat (though the coat she finally ordered has arrived). On the metaphorical level, however, thin ice may be the best place for her - testing the strength of her ideas and her potential to save herself if she should fall through and find herself floundering in the icy cold water.