August 30, 2007


I don’t do jigsaw puzzles very often, but Leighanna is putting together a massive one for her room that looks like something Lisa Frank would print on a Trapper Keeper: white and blueish penguins on icebergs with white and blueish glacier mountains in the background in front of a white and blueish sky next to a white and blueish ocean and a dark blue and light blueish starscape in the furthest background. In fact, the penguins are floating in space on top of these glaciers where there are atleast two horizons and several separate levels of landscape. It’s a precise puzzle is I guess what I’m trying to say, not a 20-piece Mickey Mouse riding Pluto down the street kind of puzzle. But I digress, the reason I’m writing this is that while puzzling away I started feeling like life is similar to a jigsaw puzzle. I know it can seem huge and confusing and not worth the trouble (like this analogy maybe) but in the end puzzles and life can be pretty cool and beautiful and bring a lot of different people together. Sometimes there are pieces that are easy- we can find the side pieces cause they have a flat edge, we can find the penguin babies because they have cute little faces and the big star is easy cause it takes up a whole piece by itself. But then we get to parts that we swear must have pieces missing. We’ve looked everywhere for just the right piece and it just isn’t anywhere. We find it later of course, it just looked different than we were expecting, or it was upside down, or something was covering it up. How often in life do we want something and actually just miss it cause it didn’t look like we were expecting? Also, how often do we forget the big picture? It doesn’t seem too harmful, but it’s like not looking at the puzzle box for instructions. You can go at it all by yourself, with no plan at all, but that is pretty rough. Plus, knowing what you want your puzzle (or life) to look like helps when you go through the day-to-day struggle that sometimes seems like it isn't getting anywhere. We are getting there of course, piece by piece, and place by place, but it just takes a while. Thank goodness too though, huh? If we just finished it in no time flat and said, “Done!” how much would we really get to enjoy the work, the company, the anticipation, the effort or the picture? I say take your time, work with a friend, be easy on yourself and take a look at the box once and a while. Sometimes the next piece is closer than you think. Don’t miss it or cram it where it doesn't belong.

August 29, 2007

Long Conversations

Whether I’m talking with Zoe, Jonathan, Michael, Josh, Carrie, Amy, my Dad, my Mom, Pawan, Chase, my brother Elias or my sister Leighanna, I have really been surprised these past few weeks by how much long conversations can mean. I’ve discussed politics in the kind of depth that I have rarely encountered in years, talked about adult relationships and left the conversation very changed myself, and laughed and laughed in ways and in succession unlike any kind of laughs I have had in recent memory. Friends and family can help a person do that I suppose, since they know us better than anyone else (besides ourselves I suppose, especially if you stand behind and beside yourself like I do). I can be honest, almost completely honest, with everyone and that really means a lot to me. It’s a great exercise in my own integrity, but it’s also a great way to see what other people think about who I really am and what I really think. If they like me, great, if they don’t, that’s fine too.

August 27, 2007


Part of growing up seems to be learning how to say “no”. Everyone and their mother need to get things done, whether they’re completing projects at work, doing chores around the house, running errands, or just talking through their problems, but at some stage a lot of people begin to realize that instead of doing their work themselves they might be able to convince other people that they should do the work for them. In some cases this happens in grade school with bullies, but in its more advanced forms it can hide itself in “grown-up” relationships and professional organizations. For instance a coworker walks up to you and says, “I’m really swamped, could you fill out a couple of TPS reports for me?” or a professor approaches you as a student and says, “I have meetings all this week, could you do some research for this paper I’m writing?” or Billy the only 7th grader with a five o’clock shadow saunters up to you and says, “Hey, do my homework for me…or I’ll beat the crap outta ya.” Not comparable? Only by degree, I figure. All three are trying to get someone else to do work for them, all three are providing you with incentive to do it, and all three are hoping that you will accept based on your personality and goals. In some cases these include fear and not wanting your face to get pummeled, but in others the things at stake could be a matter of pride or a desire to be liked by the individual requesting your time and energy. Should you say “no” all the time, or in all three of these situations? No (ironically). But I think you should ask yourself why you say “yes.” Is it because you are afraid of what will happen if you say “no” or because you think saying “yes” is beneficial for both of you? (Hint: Saying “yes” to a bully isn’t beneficial to either of you).

Synergy is the idea that two people can work together and create a result that is greater than the sum of what those two people could have created separately. For instance, it’s why geese fly in a V. Did you know that geese can fly 71 percent farther in a V than if each bird flew alone? It’s also why two 2”x4” boards on top of each other can support more than double what one 2”x4” can. One 2”x4” beam can support 607 pounds, but two 2”x4”s can support 1,821 pounds and if you nail them together they can support 4,878 pounds! In general, synergy is the idea that 1+1=3. It’s why helping your professor with research could be great for both of you, if it matches your goals, and why filling out those TPS reports could really help your coworker out and allow you to get even closer to them as a friend. But synergy doesn’t always happen when you say “yes” and in fact, I think syngery is quite rare. It requires people to be very honest with each other and to be confident in their goals, both of which are difficult for many people. If your professor doesn’t actually have meetings all that week and your coworker really just wants to leave early from work that day, neither of them were being honest with you. And if the professor is doing research in a field that your not even remotely interested in and your coworker has used you to fill out TPS reports again and again in the past, it’s quite likely that your goals are not in alignment. Helping in those situations wouldn’t only not be synergetic, it would be detrimental and based more on fear than anything else (0+½ =½ or less). “No, I would rather not,” would be a reasonable response in these situations. Save your time and energy, which by the way is just about all you have to give to this world, and use it for things you really believe in. For instance, write a blog that’s a little too long about a topic like synergy hoping that one of your friends will read it and say “no” just one more time, choosing instead something more valuable to spend their time on. If that’s your sort of thing, of course.

August 18, 2007

Momma's Boy

During a recent wedding my mom told me that when I get married she doesn't want to hand me over to my new wife as boy in need of a mom, but as a man who loves that woman. Somewhere in our young adulthood we, as boys, become men. It's not a quick process, or one that the Army or any other organization can claim the exclusive rights to, but when a boy comes out the other side it's recognizable to almost everyone: he is either a man or he isn't. There aren't rules or qualifications per say, but I think there are some principles that stand firm across the board. For instance, I think that one has moved from being a boy toward being a man when he doesn't allow fear excuse his actions - he faces his own fears and realizes that the fear itself is much more debilitating than the object in question. A man also realizes that guilt and manipulation are used by people that are smaller than he himself wants to be. There are choices to be made in this world, but choices should be made by what we believe is right whether it's justice, respect, peace, forgiveness, honor, integrity, honesty or kindness. It is not appropriate to act a certain way because you don't want to hurt someone's feelings, have someone think badly of you, or feel like someone is going to use something against you. Kindness, honesty and bravery are much more useful in these situations respectively, and I think those can help define the integrity and decisiveness of an adult.

It has been interesting to me as I have watched my younger brother Elias grow up and make adult decisions over the last few months. He's entering 7th grade which few of us can remember clearly, but if you try I'm sure you would agree that it was a very impressionable time in your life. You are forming what you believe about the world, relationships, people and your own future. You have moved outside your family's influence into that of your friends' and now into the realm of people called your teachers and mentors. He is going to make decisions, just like I did, that will move him in all kinds of directions and I have been trying my best to let him know that these should be his decisions. All kinds of people in the world will try to tell us what to believe and what to do, but when it comes down to it only one person truly has that right.

August 5, 2007

I'll Call You

I've been writing a lot on here about things that are pleasing to the eye and ear and so forth, but that's not necessarily real and I don't want to be fake, so, from here on out for a little while I'm going to write about things that are really going on. For instance: friends. I have been having a lot of thoughts on what friends are and what friends aren't and I have also been having a lot of cool experiences lately with friends, family and strangers alike. I've gone on some little vacations here and there, visited friends I saw last semester at Campbell and other friends I haven't seen for years, I've visited old advisors from clubs and old teachers from years and years ago, and I've been involved in some pretty important moments in several people's lives. After all of that, I suppose one of the biggest things I have learned is that presence is extremely important. Being with someone, calling someone, writing to someone and hell, just thinking about someone is sometimes all it takes to make a huge difference in their lives. I called my grandfather a few months ago on a normal day for no real reason. I was just driving home from Campbell, but I felt like I should call him. We talked for almost an hour, about everything from my parent's divorce to my classes at school, and it was one of the best conversations I had ever had with him. Several times, at the end of the conversation when he was getting tired, he told me that he really appreciated my phone call and that it really brought him a lot of peace about things going on in our lives. I told him it had done the same thing for me and that I loved him and appreciated talking with him. That, along with several other moments I have shared with my grandfather in my lifetime, is one of the things I will always remember about him. On July 27th, 2007, after several months in hospital care, my Papa Leslie passed away.

On more than one occasion I have heard several of my friends mention the last conversations, letters and moments they have spent with their loved ones before they passed away. Some of these losses were expected, but most were not. Because of that some of these last moments brought peace and some did not. For me, calling those people important to me and being with them defines a good relationship. These interactions aren't based on fear or guilt, but on love, respect and kindness. I take the time out of my schedule to be with those I care about, whether in a letter, phone call, or personal visit, and that keeps our relationship strong. I think sometimes we all take our relationships for granted: we expect people to call us, not for us to call them. But in my case that wouldn't have worked out well at all. I wouldn't have talked to my grandfather and I would have missed out on one of the most important conversations I have ever had.

August 1, 2007

Our Chancellor

Dr. Norman Adrian Wiggins, past President and Chancellor of Campbell University, died this morning at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center from complications with lymphoma. He was 83 years old. Campbell University's press release as well as a News & Observer release are available online. Dr. Wiggin's visitation will be held Saturday afternoon and his funeral will be held Sunday morning.

It's often hard to know all the people to thank when one begins to wonder how a place like Campbell University comes to be, but for the later part of the 20th century there has been no leader more prominent at Campbell than Dr. Norman Adrian Wiggins. In his 36 years as President, he created the extended campus programs at Campbell, helped found our five professional schools, pushed for the then Campbell College to become Campbell University and, in 2003, was named Campbell's first Chancellor. I think Dr. Wiggins was the kind of leader that every future President at Campbell will want emulate and he will remain a model for tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff at Campbell for years to come.

In our Commencement Speech this year, at the May 2007 Graduation, Dr. Wiggins challenged all of us to serve others and to always try our hardest to be the best people that we can be. He told us of his youth and his journey to Campbell as a prospective student, and he also relived his days in World War II when on one occasion he bumped into a Campbell peer while out in field. "Yes," he said, "I can say for certain that Campbell University is a very special place. I have been to institutions all over our state, but when I come home to Campbell it's the people that make the difference. We have very special people here, friends you will all have for the rest of your lives." I couldn't agree more.

Thank you Dr. Wiggins, for all of your hard work and dedication to Campbell University. Until the very end of your 83 years you remained a strong mentor and leader for all of us at Campbell, including our administration, professors, staff and students, and you made us even more proud of our school and ourselves. Thank you also Millie for your decades of love and support to which Dr. Wiggins so often referred. Seeing Dr. Wiggins embrace you after he finished his speech this Spring said volumes about the life that you have both had together. I hope that you have a strong peace about you as you move throughout the next few weeks, remembering all the wonderful times both you and Norman had together. You deserve all of the support, love and respect that we can give to you and I hope that is exactly what you receive.