Letter to the editor

My 33 years at FSU have passed in a blink. As I leave the hallowed corridors of May Hall, I would like to share with you some thoughts that have been bumping about in my head lately like balls on a pool table. So I rack them up and aim the cue. Here goes.

When I first entered the classroom I had just turned 22, and I knew even then that I had been extraordinarily blessed to have found a profession that I loved, a profession that became my life and life-work, a profession that would never fail to satisfy. Semester after semester, I was fortunate to meet wonderful students, students who inspired me, surprised me, challenged me, energized me with their energy, and who taught me the true meeting of trust, honesty and compassion. Over the years you sat in my humble (read: messy) office and shared your ideas, your deepest fears, you secret shame, your hopes, your worries. And you asked the tough questions that I struggled to answer, for I wanted to answer you with kindness and wisdom. And though I fear I fell well short of that goal, you didn’t seem to mind and gifted me with your forgiveness. You were bright, engaging, original and poignantly willing to share with me your secret selves. I felt honored to be the recipient of your trust.

I wish, now, that I could find the right words to  say goodbye. I wish I could tell you what is in my overflowing heart without sounding cheesy or sentimental.

I would like to say to all my students, particularly my seniors, that you need to pay attention to your heart and search, hard, to find the one job that inspires you, that will feed your soul and sustain you through life’s vicissitudes. Do not be influenced by dollar signs. Rather, find the job that will become your profession and will engage your mind and heart, so that you and the work you do become one. Cultivate a curiosity about what is out there for you and pore over the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Try different things now, while you are young and relatively free. If you can afford it, travel. Broaden your world view by meeting people from other continents, as they can teach you much.

Please do not turn away while your fellow citizens suffer. As you leave the comfort and security of FSU, try to be pro-active. Be engaged in politics: vote, and let your voice be heard. You can leave your mark on the world. You have the intelligence, the energy and the strength to do this. Remember to be sensitive, empathic, compassionate and honest.

There goes the eight-ball.

For me, now, in this place, the clock is winding down. And while I certainly look forward to indulging in my obsessive writing and painting, the leave-taking is bittersweet. You have fueled me all these years. If, in the future, you can find the time, drop in for a visit or send an email – I would love to hear how you’re getting on. Finally, please remember this: that, once upon a time, there was a time when at least one professor – if not many more – believed in you, respected you, trusted you to do the right thing and – yes – loved you. I wish you godspeed, and may God bless and hold you always in the hollow of his palm.

Catherine McLaughlin

English Professor

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