The best years of our lives

By Bob Schultz

On Aug. 8, there was an inspiring account in The Enterprise of six Davis High School graduates who have graduated from U.S. military academies. We can all be proud of the hard work that allowed these students to complete these prestigious programs.

However, I have to take issue with the very first sentence. It stated that “For most people, college is the best four years of their lives.” I know that isn’t so for me and I sincerely hope that it will not be true for anyone.

Why? Think about the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, a child born in the United States in 2013 will live 79.4 years. Let’s assume that children born a year ago will get out of college at age 23. If the sentence is right, that would mean that those children’s best years will be over by 2036, even though they will live 57 more years before they die in 2093. Say it isn’t so!

I discovered the career I would love during the last quarter of my senior year in college, shifted from chemistry to education, spent another year earning a credential, and I’m still getting joy and satisfaction teaching 42 years later. There have been many more than five of those years that were better than my five years in college.

At 24, I moved up from a Kodak Instamatic to a Minolta and began taking photographs. In the 41 years since then I have been honored to see my work appearing in magazines, hanging on the walls of galleries and winning ribbons at the Yolo County Fair. The satisfaction I’ve gotten from watching people respond to the photographs has been greater than my degree in chemistry brought me.

I got married at age 28, and we had three wonderful children in the first five years of our marriage. Watching the daily changes as our young children grew made their first years better than my five years in college.

The same year I got married, I attended a conference where Ray Bradbury chastised a room full of teachers who aspired to be writers for not writing every day. He gave us homework to write instead of talking about writing and, 400 published articles later, I’m still writing and loving it when something I write brings a spark of understanding, a laugh, or a tear to a reader. That writing outshines anything I ever wrote in high school or college.

At 49, I watched a program called “A Touch of Understanding” transform lives of young people by showing that people with disabilities or people who are just different from you deserve to have people be “buddies, not bullies.” That program has now reached 65,000 students and I’m proud to be on their board. Watching the faces of those young people, both with and without visible disabilities, has been more satisfying than my five years in college.

At 65, I am celebrating 37 years with my soul mate and our life together just gets better every year. There have been a few years where life threw us challenges that we definitely wouldn’t want to have to face again, but I could pick out half a dozen five-year periods of that time when my life was better than my five years in college.

High school and college students, I do hope that your years in college are inspiring, challenging and joyful and that they guide you toward fulfilling careers and lives. Just don’t ever think that when you pick up that diploma that your best years are behind you.

Bruce Springsteen sang a bittersweet song about looking back at the “Glory Days” of high school. I say, please don’t spend much of the 50 or 60 years after high school and college looking backwards. Build your career, your family and your life so the best of your glory days lie ahead.

— Bob Schultz is a Davis resident.

Special to The Enterprise

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