With a small exception, Staci and I haven’t managed to have our path’s cross since we both graduated college in 2008. When we met I was a two-time Iraq veteran and father of two on a military scholarship and she was a former Disney Cast member. On campus, our paths would cross all the time and she and I would often walk to class together. In those five minutes of travel from one building to the next, we’d often talk about the material that was due. These little chats were mini rehearsals that allowed us to contribute to the classroom conversations that were part of our grades.
One day I caught up with Staci at the library just prior to class. We had a paper due and a quiz scheduled for the beginning of class. My paper was literally in my bag. Staci was still putting together her bibliography. This was in the days before websites did it for us. I could she that she’d be a bit late getting to class and asked if she wanted me to stall the teacher. She agreed and I walked to class solo.
I arrived early and so did our professor, a lean woman with dark hair and a wonderful smile. The professor believed that a low power distance environment in the classroom lead to a better education and she encouraged us to call her Jen. I looked at the clock to see that class was due to start and Staci had still not arrived. The papers we all had to write were forming a pile on the table at the front of the class. Once the clock signaled the start of class those papers would go in Jen’s bag and the quizzes would get handed out. Any paper given to her after the pile was in her bag was late.
I could see the moments were getting shorter. So I raised my hand and asked a question. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that it was the sort of question that would lead to a healthy conversation. With the class watching and evening chiming in now and again, Jen led us through her thoughts on the subject. I kept the dialogue going with follow-up questions until Staci arrived, put her paper on the pile on the table. I then said something to signal that I was good with where the conversation had ended and that my question was answered. I could see Jen was somewhat surprised by this because she hadn’t finished explaining it to the level of detail she wanted to. The moment where she noticed my abruptness passed and she issued the quiz. Staci was safe and the class proceeded as normal.
Staci and I weren’t just friends. We were co-conspirators and this was the “worst” of our shenanigans. As far as our memories of college are concerned, it was also one of our finest moments.
This past week our paths were set to cross once again. I was on a trip for work in the same city where she’d been making her living since graduation. Since she was a local I asked her to pick the restaurant and she recommended an eatery on the first floor of the historic and lovely Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City. I arrived early and poked my head into the establishment. I was sure Staci’s endorsement of the chicken pot pie was accurate, but the atmosphere was off for what the evening needed to be. My co-conspirator didn’t just deserve me paying for good food. She needed the best and the best experience in town. Luckily, I was already in the building that provided that experience.
On the top floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is a restaurant called The Roof. It’s a significantly upscale establishment with a view of the spires of the Salt Lake Temple. I called and made a reservation and had 15 minutes before it began and the got us in. The nice lady on the phone asked if we would be celebrating anything. “Yes, I said. We’ll be celebrating a successful reunion of two college co-conspirators after a deployment to Afghanistan and years of making a business successful and Staci’s engagement.” I’m sure she had hoped I was just going to say birthday. They put birthday cards on the tables and the pianist will play happy birthday as you sit down. The cards looked nice but weren’t big enough for the words I used to describe what we were celebrating.
We sat down for dinner and had a meal that continued to tease one’s palette at every bite. The conversation was fast-paced, witty, and wonderful. We talked about everything, Staci’s wedding plans and how my oldest has her driving permit, my work, her work and then we went back down memory lane and talked about college and how it helped us get to where we are. I was pleased to report how my communication degree helped me navigate complex situations in high-risk environments. Staci relayed how she’s had to travel six weeks so far this year. I only nodded. “No Jake, 6 weeks. So far we’re only 12 weeks in!” I made sure to do more than nod. That amount of travel indicates how valuable she is to her company and how well the company is doing. Their success has obviously increased, and Staci knows she’s helped build that success.
In each of our job’s we’ve done well by identifying the root causes of problems so I posed the question, “what was it about our college experience that set us apart?” Staci was highly active in student government in school. I was active in a variety of projects that ultimately had me being awarded the Man of the Year award. We each had our own paths but had both done more than just get our degrees, we leveraged our time on campus to get the most rewarding experience possible for our future.
While we can certainly credit our school for facilitating the experiences that have led us to be successful, a large part of it was the attitude we had when we approached school. Most of our fellow students were looking to get a single resume bullet “Bachelor’s Degree from…” Staci and I were there to seek out experiences. We left with our degrees and quite a few resume bullets. She leveraged her experience with student government to be successful in her profession, and I walked away with the Man of the Year Award.
I hope every parent preparing to send their kid to college has a chat with them about focusing on more than one resume bullet. The time at school will likely be rich with life changing experiences. It’s not too hard to choose those experiences that you won’t mind putting on your resume instead of living the ones you have to delete later on facebook. If Staci and I could do it, anyone can.