Have you ever found something special in a box hidden away in the back corner of a closet or storage room? Last night, in a file my mother kept, I found several little books I wrote 50 years ago. By books, I mean 20 pages stapled together with a colored piece of paper for a cover. I must have been in the second grade when I created them. Half of the pages in each book were lined perfectly for practicing writing upper-case and lower-case letters; the other half of the pages were blank for drawing pictures with crayons.
The first book I picked up had a green cover on which I had written in large crayon letters, “When Dinosaurs Lived by Scott Wyatt.” Of course! What second grader doesn’t love dinosaurs? I did. On the pages inside the book I had written interesting facts about dinosaurs and drawn pictures of them. My favorite picture in the book is of a green Diplodocus. I drew a man riding on it like a horse (a very big horse) and a volcano erupting in the background. The man is smiling.
The second book caught my eye. I had written on the blue cover in crayon, “Winter Sleepers by Scott Wyatt.” It is a book about animals that hibernate. My second-grade teacher had written all over the cover with a red marker, “Scott, you are talking to your neighbors too much, causing them and yourself to not finish. You waste a lot of time just sitting. Your work is very good, but you could finish twice as fast as you do.” And then she wrote in big red letters, “your art work is beginning to slip.” As I looked through my little book. I had to agree with her. My colorful drawings of animals that hibernate did look quite hurried and sloppy--even for a seven-year-old.
These were class assignments I did when I was in elementary school. Apparently, my mother saved them. And today they are a window back into my childhood. But more than that they are my reminder of how far I have come over the years. That little boy, who was me, 50 years ago, and who had a hard time concentrating and completing his second-grade assignments, could never have imagined doing the home work he was required to do ten years later in high school, and then in college, and finally in law school. But I did it. Slowly, but surely, with persistence, I become better. And so have you. The only difference between us is that I have more years to look back on.
While you are preparing for your finals and finishing your projects this week, if you start to feel discouraged or overwhelmed, just take a minute to look back at how far you have come. From your first days in elementary school, when you didn’t know how to read or do simple addition or subtraction until now, you have learned so much. And then take a minute to imagine forward. You are going to continue to learn more today and through the weeks and years to come. Just keep at it, like you always have, and you will amaze yourself. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.” Your power "to do" has been increasing throughout all your school years. It will continue to increase. All you have to do is keep moving forward.
Good luck with finals. Remember, all of your friends at SUU are cheering for you and want to help you to succeed. We have confidence in you. And if you have a minute this week, pull out your own “dinosaur books” from elementary school to remind yourself of just how far you have come. You'll do great this week! We will look forward to seeing you back with all you friends at Southern Utah University in January, after the holiday vacation. (Unless, of course, you are graduating this semester!
With the warmest regards,
Scott L Wyatt, President
Southern Utah University
Cedar City, Utah
(Here is my Diplodocus picture from the second grade. Want a ride!)