Talking to Myself

If an uncomfortable, unpleasant situation persists in your life for a significant amount of time, the important thing to remember is that this situation would not have been possible without your active enabling. If you keep finding yourself in the same kind of victimhood, it means you need this victimhood for some reason. If people keep leeching off of you, if somebody continuously acts as a parasite towards you, this means you have enabled them and keep doing it because this is what you need. Without analyzing the roots of this need, the problem will not be resolved.

Anxiety and guilt devour our energy. The causes of anxiety and guilt are always internal. If we choose to retain them in our lives, it means they serve important purposes for us. Some of these purposes might be precisely to rob ourselves of energy because change and progress might be terrifying.

Today I declare the day of getting ourselves of parasites that devour our lives, our energy, our sense of self. Who is your parasite, and what profound need leads you to keep saddling yourself with him or her?

Debt-Free Education

I keep hearing about people who struggle under mountains of debt they accumulated as a result of getting a college degree. This is why I decided to do a little promotional activity for my own university.

Tuition for in-state residents of our state university is just $8,864.80 per year (that’s just $739 per month). Tuition includes textbook rental, so the expense of textbooks is covered. I find this kind of tuition to be very reasonable, especially since there is also a great number of scholarships and grants both on the state and federal level.

Many of our students choose to live off campus, but if you want an on-campus experience, your room and board will cost you $8,051.00 per year. This is a price I also consider very reasonable. The room and board cost the same for out-of-state students. Tuition for them, however, is higher and runs to the amount of $18,809.80 (or $1567 per month). This isn’t low, but it is still a lot less than at many other places.

So what do you get in return for this money? Our university made a very smart decision to keep hiring aggressively during the years of the recession. In 2009, when I was hired, the majority of universities canceled or suspended their searches for tenure-track professors. I estimate that at least 60% of all applications I’d sent out returned to me with a letter saying that the search had been cancelled due to the recession. Our university, however, realized that this was the best time to bring a wave of enthusiastic, promising young academics to our campus. I was one of 55 new tenure-track profs hired in that year. Next year, we hired 40+ people. And these hiring efforts continued the year after that.

As a result, we now have a big group of young scholars who graduated from great schools and are very active in research. Nobody else wanted us but this university did. And it offered us great conditions of employment, too, instead of trying to exploit the desperate situation of recent PhD graduates, like some other schools did.

Our undergrads are taught by actual professors on all levels. This doesn’t happen at Ivy League schools where two thirds of undergrad courses are not taught by professors. You can go through your entire Major at certain Ivy League schools without ever taking a course taught by a person with a PhD.

Our university does everything it can to update its technology. None of the universities where I worked before coming here had anything similar to the kind of technology we get here. And I’m talking about really prestigious, famous schools where tuition is several times greater than what it is here. For language and culture courses, for example, it makes all the difference in the world to have satellite television from Spain, a languages lab, a plasma screen to show movies, computers in the classroom, sound systems, etc. It’s one thing to make photocopies of the Mayan pyramids and distribute them to students. It is a completely different experience to show them the pyramids on a huge screen.

Of course, we don’t have anything similar to the prestige of Ivy League schools. However, having studied and taught at the Ivies, I believe that this prestige is not worth getting in debt for. If you are from a background that offers you connections with important people, you’ll have those connections anyways. If you are from a poorer background, you will be a pariah at your Ivy and all that money you pay to be there will be wasted.

In the US, it is more than possible to get a good college degree for a very reasonable amount of money. I strongly recommend that you consider us or any other state university before getting into ruinous debt to pay for nothing but a cool-sounding name. As an added bonus, you might get taught by me, or somebody like me. And that’s nothing to be sneezed at. 🙂

Tolstoy on Joy

The meaning of life, its goal is joy. Feel joyous as you look at the sky, the sun, the stars, the grass, the trees, the animals, the people. And make sure that nothing spoils this joy. If the joy disappears, this means you made a mistake somewhere. You need to look for this mistake and correct it.

  – Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy is not one of my favorite writers but this statement is impossible to disagree with. Many people accept misery or, in the best of cases, lack of any strong emotions about their existence as the normal state of affairs while exultant joy and happiness are seen as rare aberrations. It shouldn’t be that way, though. If we possess the capacity to feel intensely happy, then this skill should be put to use as often as possible.