Good morning and welcome back!

I want to begin this morning by acknowledging that first days are always a bit rough; as you go from class to class, you may hear about upcoming quizzes, tests, papers, and projects. It can all be a bit overwhelming. On top of all of this you may be a bit anxious about simply being here. As queasy as you may feel right now, you still aren’t quite as anxious as the guy who tried to sing “Happy Birthday” to Roseanne Barr. Take a look:

Most of us try to disguise whatever anxiety we may be experiencing, but rest assured, if you didn’t rest so easily last night, you were not alone.In my office, I have a copy of a poster that Churchill had displayed throughout London during the blitz. It simply says, “Keep calm and carry on.”

That’s my first piece of advice for all of us today. Let’s not get overwhelmed. We’ll be able to handle whatever life throws at us, if we can just take care of today.

My second piece of advice has to do with cars, sort of. The columnist George Will claims to have developed, what he calls the “Ohio, 1891 automobile” view of history, because in the state of Ohio in the year 1891, there were only two cars. And they crashed. Bad things are going to happen, so let’s not be surprised when they do. You may not get the part, the grade, the friend or the recognition that you so richly deserve. It will hurt, but you can bounce back. So plan on bouncing ahead of time.

I will end this morning with a quick and somewhat goofy story about a guy who lost his keys in the dark. He soon found a lamppost and there under the light, he used a piece of chalk and took a very rational approach to finding his keys. He wrote “A through Z” on the road, and under each letter, he put the numbers 1 to 10 under each letter. He created a series of boxes that he then checked. But he didn’t find his keys.

Then he tried a behavioralist approach. He put an “M and M” in each box, and again, he checked each one thoroughly. He rewarded himself with a piece of candy after checking each box, but still could not find his keys.

Then he tried an educational approach to key finding. He took out his google machine and did some research on the history of keys. He might have been a Theory of Knowledge student because he was soon immersed in learning about keys in literature and understanding keys as metaphor. While he was enlightened, he still didn’t have his keys.

Finally he tried the therapeutic approach to finding his keys. He called a 12 step, lost key hot line, and there he talked to other people who had lost their keys. They shared their stories of loss, and they shared their experience, strength, and hope. And while the man felt better, he still didn’t have his keys.

At this point, a friend came by to ask what was going on, and he asked, “Where did you actually lose your keys?” His friend’s reply was, “Oh, I lost the keys about a mile down that dark road, but I’m looking here because the light is so much better under the lamppost.”

Ok. I told you the story was goofy. “Apocryphal” might have been a better word, but I thought it might scare you on the first day of school. My point is that we are all a bit like that guy who is drawn to the light, to what is familiar, to what is comfortable. I hope that as we start the year together, we will be more open to taking more risks, to trying new things, whether it’s a new academic course, a new club or art or team.

I confess that, when I was in high school, I wanted to do drama but didn’t have the courage to try out. Later, at university, I finally took a chance and had a great experience. But I waited too long because I was afraid of the dark.

So my 3 take-aways for today are:

1. First days back are tough on every one, and if you are feeling a bit anxious, remember the nervous kid and Winston Churchill’s “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

2. Bad things happened in Ohio in 1891. They will happen this year in Toronto, too. The good news is that these set backs will help you develop resiliency, and that resiliency may be the most important thing you learn this year.

3. Remember the man with the lost keys, and don’t be afraid to try out for the checkers team this year, if that’s what you really want to do.


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