By Guest Blogger: Qwantayvious Stiggers, University of Michigan BA
I am currently an EMT aspiring to become a nurse practitioner.
Venturing almost 750 miles away from Atlanta to Ann Arbor caused me to be a completely different person five years ago. Upon arrival at The University of Michigan and over the course of my undergraduate years, I would ask myself a question while sitting in my dorm room thinking about a difficult experience, be it a test, a class, or a relationship. “Do I want to grow?” And my answer always ended with yes.
This seemingly simple question has served me well. I now have my degree in my hand and a set of diverse experiences no one can ever take away from me. And I believe it was all due to the mindset that I brought with me, and that mindset is the most important thing to consider in the journey through life. Of course, there were important people along the way who helped me develop this mindset. My mom gave me an unwavering stance of courage to make sure I stand on what I believe in every situation. My mentor, Dr. Meria Carstarphen, also provided access to rich experiences such as exposing me to Broadway productions (Hamilton!), showing me the importance of libraries and book choices, plus opportunities to see my life’s full potential beyond Atlanta. It’s true that no one can best grow alone.
We are ever-changing human beings. We are not made to stay the same and because of this, we evolve. Each day that passes we grow, develop and progress towards a new version of ourselves. But all growth is not equal. We each, with support from those around us, have to do the tough work of not only looking at our current actions and values but also asking ourselves, “Do these actions and values align with someone who wants to grow? Do they align with a vision of someone I’d want to meet, be friends with, or look up to as a leader?” This is not a moment of judgment of where you should be in life, but a moment of encouragement for each of us to become someone who we ourselves would want to know.
Entering this school year with still so much unrest and uncertainty, we each have a perfect opportunity to grow. Small steps such as seeking to understand a new perspective or showing compassion towards a person we normally wouldn’t, can keep us growing and learning. We miss so much when we judge and assume a person’s intentions based on the color of their skin, the amount of money they possess, the gender they identify with, or other markers we humans have imposed on each other as easy and careless judgments. Small growth mindsets that cast aside those surface identifiers can help provide us with not only richer understandings of each other and our own selves, but they can ultimately help us build that better community we all say we want. The small steps we individually take can get us there.
The reality of the world we live in today is that there is not enough love and consideration for one another. But the good news is that every person has within themselves the ability to love and to care for others; whether we unlock it or not depends on the mindset we each have within us to learn and grow. This new school year that holds so much promise for new ways of doing and of thinking, provides us each the opportunity to think about how we can put our best mindset forward to make another person feel welcomed and heard. Growing into how we see and accept others is perhaps the most important growth mindset of all.