Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri 3/5/2004 3:29 AM
Random Thought: On Personal Mission Statements

The computer says it's 5:11 a.m. I had been on the internet answering messages since 3:30. I was too wired to sleep. No walking today. Still feeling some effects of a medical procedure I had yesterday that was looking for the "Big 'C.'" My cell phone rang about a half hour ago and I just hung up. Thankfully, the student called on my cell phone and didn't wake up my angelic Susan. Had Susan been aroused from her slumber at what she calls this ungodly hour, her halo would have fast disappeared and I would have had the devil to pay. Anyway, if getting a clean bill of health wasn't uplifting enough, after fighting for a week to keep my spirits up and not get into a funk, silently listening to this student for about a half hour sent me higher. The first news about cancer was relief; this second regarding this student was satisfying and fulfilling.

Anyway, if I had been struggling to imagine an ideal day on campus, it would have been last Friday. It was one of those peak experiences; one of those memorable moments. It was a moment of living fully alive, an instant of being the person I want to be. It was an exhilaration, like feeling the wind in my face. It was a reminder of what is really important. I wish I could describe what it was that caused my palms to break out in a cold sweat, brought tears to my eyes, got my heart throbing and blood rushing, made my lungs gasp for breath, penetrated deep into my bones and deeper into my soul. It was like having the wind knocked out of me. But, I can't talk about it. It's too confidential. Only four people know what happened. Three are me, my Susan, and the student. But, trust me, it did happen and boy the warm after glow has yet to fade. It got me through the sub-zero chilling prospect of cancer.

This happening and telephone call got me to thinking.

Here I am in my thirty-sixth year at VSU. At my retirement--an unlikely prospect--what would students say about me, what would colleagues say about me, what differences have I made in people's lives, how would I want to be remembered, what legacy would I leave behind, what dents have I really put in the universe?

A long time ago, a high school teacher came up to me at graduation and told me that the teachers, knowing I had been voted "Clown of the Class of 1958" by my "friends," felt I would probably be the least likely to succeed of the college-bound graduates. Nice people! Until 1991, my degrees and titles, a prominent research and publication resume, as well as national scholarly renown, not withstanding, I would have agreed with them. Then, I had an epiphany and started to wrestle with a bunch inside stuff and started both my life and career anew. I discovered the real, painful, hard truth that if I want to change the world, I have to start with myself. All change is internal change. Every decision comes from within me. I can't separate myself into a work "me" and an other life "me." Every decision touches all of me. And, I embarked on a near decade-long search for a sense of mission and the formulation of a personal mission statement.

Friday, I felt success and accomplishment. It had an overwhelming and caressing warmth to it. No, you won't find this "happening" on my resume or annual evaluation or any assessment document. It had nothing to do with getting a grant or a contract for a workshop or having a manuscript accepted or having a conference proposal accepted. But, it had everything to do with a person. The accomplishment I felt was much more important and lasting. It was and still is internal. Let's call it a deep, very deep, sense of fulfillment. You know, fulfillment comes from realizing and living by your values. Fulfillment comes from integrity, from being who you are and expressing who you are as fully as possible. It has to do with how I bring my self to campus, into class. I saw my personal mission statement live. I exercised and witnessed the the power of purpose, vision, and mission. The happening fell into my lap only because my personal mission statement, my purpose, my reason for being, had moved my lap to where it was falling. I did something that contributed to a life, that added value to a life beyond myself, that was outside myself, beyond my ego, beyond my professional self-interest. Living my personal mission statement said I could do no other. And, I feel as if it brought out the music that is both inside me and someone else.

And, it just hit home again: Institutions don't have mission statements. People do.

In spirit of Forest Gump, "That's all I'm going to say." I'm going out to sit by the fish pond and enjoy the dawn.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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