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Don’t be afraid: Change is opportunity

By Paula Bowers-Sanchez

I know I normally write about health and wellness, but after speaking at the College-Career Fair the other day, I was motivated to encourage not only those graduating shortly but also all those students who still have a ways to go. It is necessary to pursue your education with great enthusiasm, but it’s also important to keep watch of your health and well-being, because eating well and exercising are key to helping your brain work more effectively and efficiently.

I am constantly amazed at the speed with which change takes place. But with change comes opportunity. What is your vision of the future? Will you fight the changes? If you remember one thing I say, let it be this: “CHANGE IS OPPORTUNITY.” If you embrace change in your life with education, health and fitness – no matter how ugly or scary it may look – you will realize your goals and then some.

You are at a point in your lives where change is inevitable. The educational, physical and emotional demands you feel will change and will continue to change as you go through life. Change can be overwhelming at times, but as you deal with it, remember everything doesn’t happen at once. Baby steps are absolutely necessary. We all started out with baby steps; eventually we learned to crawl, to stand, to walk and finally, to run. Confidence comes with each accomplishment in our lives. I encourage you to make a plan and then break it down into manageable steps. Maybe you’re not ready for the rigors of being a full-time college student. So, take a few classes first; build confidence. You’ll learn to run soon enough.

I would also encourage you to keep an open mind. Aspire to be or do whatever is in your heart. I love this scene from one of my favorite movies, Sister Act. Sister Mary Clarence tells a student that, if when she wakes up in the morning all she can think about is singing, then she’s supposed to be a singer. So, I tell you all: Find what it is that inspires you, excites you, makes your heart happy, and go for it.

Remember to incorporate healthy eating habits and fitness into your weekly schedule. See yourself and where you want to be in a year, 10 years or 20 years. Be strong, but flexible like bamboo, and you will thrive. Sometimes, I don’t feel like working out and watching what I eat, but I think about my son and wanting to be around long enough to attend his high school graduation and his wedding. It takes dedication and determination. Don’t forget, no one is perfect; so, if you slip, get up and try again.

When I was a high school student, I was looking forward to a new, exciting and yes, a little scary phase of life. Although I had no idea what to expect and no clear path of how to get there, I knew one thing for certain: Education was a must. I wanted to address this column to all the students out there. No matter what grade you are in, I want to encourage you to pursue the highest educational degree you can attain. I do so with the knowledge that your path may be far different than mine but certainly no less attainable.

In my early years, I really wanted to be a singer and actor, but my course of education led me to obtain a bachelor of arts in psychology from New York University and a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University. I value my education and wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I never could have predicted where I would end up as a result of it. Today, I have no regrets because I was willing to do something completely different, and it scares me to think about the consequences I might have suffered because of rigidity and closed-mindedness.

The final and most important key to using change to seize opportunities is to continue to learn. Education doesn’t stop when you receive a diploma. If it does, then you’ve stopped thinking. Please don’t do that. When you continue to learn, you ensure exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking.

I’m not saying to take classes for the rest of your lives. Spend 10 minutes a day reading a paper, a book or an article. Go to a museum, or learn a new language. Each new idea you consider is a mind-opener. If you are open-minded, you can be flexible. When you are flexible, you will bend, not break. As you bend, you will embrace the opportunity to pursue the life you desire, and you will live that life to the fullest.

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