Tuesday, May 19, 2009

They Call Me 'Zygote'

When I was introduced to the first students already in the program yesterday, their very first comment was, "oh, you're a zygote". Not only did I find this highly amusing, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how appropriate the term is. A zygote is, in essence, a fertilized egg. Although an egg is just the potential to become something, a zygote goes one step further. A zygote is something that has been kick-started down the path to becoming. It has all of the building blocks it needs but none of the completed structure. Just like the zygote, I am at the very beginning of a long, difficult, but highly rewarding journey.

Yup. I wear my Zygote branding proudly!

The TTU campus really surprised me. While Lubbock is no doubt a true west Texas town, largely flat, dry and containing all the shades of brown that can be found in nature, it is actually much prettier than I imagined. There is a lot of new construction in the areas I visited, both in new roads and in new buildings. Although a first-time [in MANY years] visitor to the city, it appears to be going through a bit of a growth surge. But the TTU campus, well, that is something else altogether. It is surprisingly beautiful. Many of the buildings are works of art, both inside and out. The grounds are well-kept and beautiful, with shaded areas, meandering paths, outdoor seating under the shade trees, fountains and sculptures, and friendly staff in abundance.

But the biggest surprise of all is the participants in the program.

I often work in a building with a large population of scientific PhDs and if I had to categorize them into a single category, I believe I might call them "smart snobs" as they appear to think much more highly of themselves than is warranted. As I arrived on campus here to meet the students that I will be sharing my classes, team activities, and experiences with over the next few years, I was expecting such a highly sought-after program to be full of such high-minded individuals. Boy was I wrong. What I found instead was a room full of warm, inquisitive, interesting, interested, open-minded and often quite down-to-earth "folks". Wow. Normal people with a desire to do more, go further, push boundaries, in other words, I found a room full of people much like me. Well, in some ways that is.

You see, part of my reason for coming to visit is that I understood the program to have a large population of students that currently hold teaching positions at major universities. Sheesh. How intimidating is that! I mean, I only just earned my BS in May of 2007. Some of the people in the room could easily have been my professors just a year ago. But I have found that a few of the people are, like me, from industry, business, or another profession. So, I am really not alone in that respect although I feared I might be.

The second major concern of mine is the fact that I have never been an English major. I have always had a "knack" for English, grammar, vocabulary, and am an avid reader, but I have never focused on English, and certainly not on Rhetoric or Communication as a subject matter for deep study or expertise. Now, as they say, "I are one". In that respect, my concerns were right on target and I find that I have a very long way to go. These instructors and students speak a language I do not know. I actually spent much of yesterday pretending to understand things that were said to me while marking the new terms down in my mind for later look-up. I already have a new stack of words that I have never heard spoken before that I am definitely going to have to learn as they might someday be applied to me. "Rhetorician" for example. Who knew it was a word that people actual use in conversation! (I obviously have a LONG way to go!)

Still, my overwhelming first day emotion is actually relief. My introduction to the class was enough for me to realize that I might actually be able to do this. I've learned new languages before. Last year, for example, I learned to speak "business speak". Starting in just a few months, I have no doubt I will begin learning to speak "communication and rhetoric", the language of individuals, like me, who study such things. Now you must keep in mind it is not the IDEAS about such topics that are new to me. I am an AVID student of human behavior, human learning, and human communication. I mean, these are things that have always interested me and have attracted me, things that have caused me to read more, observe more, experiment more, and think more deeply about them. It's the language I don't know. But it's also that I've been working from the safety of a boat on the surface of the water that I've been looking at them. Now I'm going to don a wetsuit and jump off into the depths with them. How exciting!

Yikes! I see that, once again, I've rambled ON AND ON. My apologies. I did want you to know, however, that I am enjoying my trip to Lubbock, am THRILLED to be in with such a prestigious but down-to-earth group of students, and am looking forward to the next few years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears with great anticipation!

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