(RNS) — My path to the Egress is as uncertain as I can imagine, but my goal has gotten more focused on sharing some small positive effects while I’m still able.
My diagnosis of glioblastoma hit me about eight months ago. Median survival is about 15 months. I have limits – mostly a drop in my stamina, some inability to grab top-goal words for conversation. There’s not yet clear evidence, however, that the cancer is back or the odds of my timing clearly set. I’m semiretired on long-term disability benefits because I’m, ahem, long-term disabled.
But I keep doing some things I like and skipping some I don’t. These occasional columns for RNS are a plus. So is my weekly visit to the newspaper office where I worked for 29 years.
I visit The Dallas Morning News for what I semi-jokingly call “Thursdays with Jeffrey,” a takeoff on “Tuesdays with Morrie.” I’ve done it almost every Thursday of the past few months. (The couple of weeks I missed, I was on a pleasant trip out of town.)
My goal is to wander through on my own pace for several hours and offer some mentoring. I try to toss some advice like a bee distributing pollen to anybody willing to listen. What should we focus on? What shape should the story take? How should the reporter max his professional-level successes?
Some of our summer interns seem to enjoy my advice.
That bunch is mostly headed back to school now; a few starting high school calendars, more of them shifting back to college. They will be star editors, reporters or columnists for the next school year — because they were, no kidding, talented during their professional-institution internships. Boy, howdy, they’ll be above the experience bar of a lot of their student colleagues!
For their departure, I decided to give them the most meta advice I could come up with. Not just a kibitz about a particular story or even a broader focus on how they should approach their upcoming journalism experience. A bit of moral advice. I even gave the same basic advice to my nephew, days before he started his college freshman year.
Some of them seemed to light up listening to me. So I decided to pass it along here.
My bottom line is that school is a time they can test some of their professional and moral goals with potentially less cost than when they become more independent.
Well do I know that even a clinical trial on a new medical treatment that fails to deliver successful data may help researchers climb toward real and better treatment.
But school time means some screw-ups should be total positives.
When I was the managing editor for my college paper, I tried some story and layout ideas that were soooo doubleplus ungood! I didn’t make those mistakes again. New and different errors? Ubetcha. But the bruises once out of school were a lot more painful. A hitter in baseball who is successful 30 percent of the time — a batting average of .300 — is probably an All-Star. Some strikeouts are good to experience without seeking impossible imperfection.
Beyond that, I told our young ’uns this month, it’s a good time for them to consider their broader moral and ethical goals. Some young people are already following specific religious theology and practice. And some of them will get what they’re looking for out of it. Others will discover that they could have chosen better direction for themselves.
The students who ended up as interns for us, no question, have higher intellectual capabilities and a larger ability to consider sophisticated thinking than some others. But I think it’s an advice worth considering across the board. All of us have the ability to consider our goals. I think I’ve witnessed and experienced the success of that.
Amid my failures in college were a few choices I still think were positive for me: My decision not to do much of anything to increase my popularity kept me away from booze and drugs, though I decided friends who leaned toward pot were a lot more pleasant than the beer-swillers.
The times I spent kibitzing about faith-related points of view, from Judaism to Catholicism to evangelical Christianity to Taoism, all had elements that I found thought-provoking. Sometimes a lot more thought-provoking a year or a decade or even several decades later.
What’s a student’s thinking about fashion, gender, sexual relations, relationships? I say too many young ’uns flow down the social river without considering their own steering much, or at all. No way would I suggest what the course should be for anybody. And a course set today may end up needing dramatic shifting of the rudder at some point. But better to have set a flexible direction that required regrouping than not having set any direction, IMNSHO.
Here’s a terrible truth for today that makes me hope some people will follow my advice: Ignorance is the best excuse; cluelessness about politics and government; acceptance of medical quackery; taking on relationships or drugs or sexual practices frequently. These all come with unforeseen potential and avoidable negatives. And without some potential and attainable positives.
Damifino what the best advice should be. When I hit the Egress, I have some hope that I’ll get some answers when I hit the other side. But even if there’s nothing over there and I end when I end, I can hope some of my suggestions may make some of the world a little bit better even when I’m gone.
God willing. The universe pushing. Inshallah.
(Jeffrey Weiss writes the RNS column “My Way to the Egress.” The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service)