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‘Sail away from safe harbor,’ excellent advice at any age

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dean rea,musings,highway 58 heraldI have often bragged that “I never let my schooling interfere with my education,” which is patterned after a comment by the humorist Mark Twain.

This statement certainly applied to my undergraduate scholastic record.

I vividly recall starting to enter an English literature classroom in college, then pausing in the hallway to discuss the consequences of failing to prepare an assigned paper with my buddy, Don, who hadn’t prepared a paper either.

mark twain,dean rea,musings column
Herald columnist Dean Rea says American author and humorist Mark Twain influenced his thinking about not letting his schooling get in the way of his education.

“What shall we do?” I asked.

“Let’s go bowling,” my comrade in arms suggested.

We did.

Can’t remember the consequences of failing the assignment but remember recording two strikes at the alley.

My disinterest in academic achievement may have originated during my freshman year in college while concentrating on learning the printing trade, an undertaking that began during junior high school. You could earn as much as 25 cents an hour hand-pegging type and running a printing press, which provided more incentive for a 17-year-old than sweating over classroom assignments.

While I was a college freshman, a group of high school boys asked my help in recruiting an adult leader for their Boy Scout troop. Didn’t happen. So, I volunteered and spent weekends hiking, supervising merit badge activities, camping, etc. Had trouble starting a campfire, however, thus setting a poor example of outdoorsmanship.

I also discovered an outlet for my interest in running, joined the track team and began winning medals, which beat earning A grades in Latin, American history and English composition.

Meanwhile, I met a group of boys who spent weekends flying model airplanes at the local airport, which required building models during my spare time if I were to participate.

You see where this is going.

I continued to add activities with each passing year: played tuba in the marching band and orchestra, participated in dramatic productions, established a home printing business, helped organize a fraternity, became the editor of the student newspaper during my senior year and led the youth group at the church that I attended.

Fortunately, I postponed becoming serious about dating until near the end of my senior year when I met the girl who became my wife two years later. We were married 61 years before her death a couple of years ago.

I ended my four-year undergraduate tenure with a cumulative grade point average a whisker above C plus, which in those days was good enough to qualify me to enter graduate school where I turned my academic life around and picked up an A or two.

I often reflect on those undergrad years and wonder whether I might have performed more satisfactorily in the classroom. Then I recall something else that Mark Twain said:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Not bad advice either for a guy who is scheduled to celebrate his 93rd birthday in a few weeks.

Longtime Oregon journalist Dean Rea, widely known for his years as a University of Oregon journalism educator and as an editor at The Register-Guard in Eugene,  serves as interim editor of The Herald but is stepping down on Monday, Feb. 28, and handing the reins back to George Custer, The Herald’s president.

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