A Virtual Reality Check…Living Life Untraditionally

JCJ_Column_Published_Jul_08_2015-croppedPublished in the Jersey County Journal
Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The future is upon us, whether we like it or not. Yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s technology has catapulted us into changing the way we live our daily lives—despite many deeply heartfelt attempts at stopping it. The “traditional” way of doing things is no longer carried out with methods set forth by the baby boomers or the generations that came before them.

The reality is that every day is now set on a virtual stage. The Millennials, with help from the Gen Y generation, are taking the lead and taking over. The rest of us will have to change our perceptions of (and our practices in) the real world today if we want to continue to have meaning in our very existence.

We are not our parents; we are not living in our parents’ time. Just as we refused to become our parents, so now are our children. And while there is much value to cherish from the generations before, we also know there is much value in change (indoor plumbing and electricity come to mind for starters).

Why do I bring this all up now? Well, it’s got to do with what I like to call a reality check of a virtual nature I encountered in both my professional world and in my role as a parent—almost simultaneously.

From a few “professionals” in my field, it was recently suggested to me to consider leaving my Master’s degree off my professional profile. They recommended this because of its non-traditional nature, as well as because of the university from which it came and its current negative image. When I first read the words of the messages from these “professionals,” I was just shocked. The more I read about their words about how a more “traditional” pursuit would have more prestige, the more frustrated I became.

The hard work, perseverance, and mastery of the knowledge contained in my non-traditional program were just as rigorous, viable and valuable as any obtained through “traditional” methods. My education is a highly significant part of who I am; my graduate degree will remain a visible part of it.

My oldest son recently completed his Master’s degree “traditionally” at a “prestigious” school. His reality now is, in the highly competitive and very limited field of fine arts these day, those things weren’t quite enough. The prestige, the reputation, the beautiful campus, the network and the knowledge acquired: they all have value. And soon he will be paying for it, but while likely working in another field.

As a student, a parent, and an educator, I know firsthand that the “tradition” of a physical classroom where a student reports to from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. doesn’t work for all learners. Realistically, isn’t it more important for a student to learn what they need to know to become contributing members of society than it is for them to simply follow “tradition”?

I think it’s time we start looking at life more closely through our children’s and grandchildren’s eyes. They are our current and future leaders. Life lived online is the new reality, for them and for us. It is just as vital, educational, profitable, inspiring, and brutal as living the way our grandparents did.

Often I hear people saying that kids today don’t know how to communicate. Maybe the reality is that we’re the ones that don’t. The world is changing every second…perhaps it’s time for all of us to silence ourselves, open our minds, and listen more closely to what the future is saying…