By: Rodney Mondor, USM Dean of Students
Welcome Back, Huskies! I hope you had a relaxing break and despite all the recent snow and ice, feel refreshed and ready to face 2020. It’s hard for me to believe I am missing my first spring semester start in twenty years. This is not a place I expected to be, but definitely happy to be on the mend and getting stronger each day. A special Thank You to all the Student Affairs team for stepping up and helping out during my absence. You all rock!
This opening week at USM marks two months in my recovery period from having open-heart valve replacement and aortic graph surgery. I am still processing the events of the last couple of months and feel blessed to be healthy and better than ever each day. My doctor has prescribed a three month recovery period which to me already feels like a year. So I continue to follow my cardiac rehab schedule in hopes of returning to work as soon as possible. I cannot wait to be back with all of you and doing what I love to do every day.
Though I am not able to be there in person, I thought it would be appropriate to still offer a ‘welcome back’ and share a few nuggets of wisdom instilled upon me during my recovery – a recovery period that opened my eyes to my limitations and challenges but also enlighten me on my true abilities and potential as an individual. Simply said: ask for help, take care of yourself, and plan ahead.
In recovery, I had to rely on friends and family to do things for me that I could previously do for myself. For the first two weeks after my surgery, the doctor required that there be someone in my home 24 hours a day, both as a precaution and to assist with cooking, cleaning and of course shoveling snow.
This required me to do something I do not usually do, but now encourage you to consider when you cannot do it alone: ask for help! Don’t be too proud to speak up when in need. Whether you are looking for some assistance academically and have a question, or in a personal matter and need to talk it out, please do not hesitate to ask for help.
Many feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but in fact it is a sign of strength. You are acknowledging the challenge and the reality that you don’t have to do it alone. Whether it is your friend, faculty member, staff member, or family, people want to be helpful and support you when you need it.
During my recovery, I had to face the reality that my body is not invincible. Surgery was pretty severe and though I seemed to bounce back quickly in the hospital, my body was not at 100 percent. Walking up the stairs in my apartment felt like the end of a 100 yard dash. Being the type of person who is always on the go, it was very frustrating to have to slow down. It did not take me long to realize that taking time to relax and care for myself was the most important lesson and a priority to my speedy recovery.
The start of the semester and a new year is a great time to establish new healthy habits and balance between all the demands in your life. Before things get stressful – projects, midterms, papers, and finals – it is a great time to take care of what is important: you. Create a balanced schedule that includes your academics, work, meals, exercise, social time, and even sleep. Taking the time now, when you are fresh and stressors are at a minimum, will help establish a solid routine and habits, and will allow you to be better prepared if life gets a little complicated later on. You are in control of you, and taking care of #1 (you) is key to handling life when it throws you some #2.
Finally, plan ahead. Your time at USM will go by fast. Commencement is just around the corner and you will be interviewing for jobs before you know it. So in the meantime, what are you doing right now to prepare for your future? What do you hope to do after your time at USM? Can you volunteer or find an internship to gain valuable experience? What classes can you take that will inspire you to be the best you can be as a student and person? What tools or support do you need to be successful? All you have to do is ASK.
Though the weather is not as welcoming as this letter, please take care and best wishes on your Spring Semester. It has been a challenging academic year for all of us, and now in 2020, we can take control. Try something different, connect with others on campus and in your community. Visit the Student Activities web page for campus events and plan to attend one or more (usm.maine.edu/activities). Check out the Weeks of Welcome schedule and the Involvement section to see other great opportunities on campus.
What are you going to do in 2020 to make a difference in your life and in your community? “Be a part of” instead of “being apart.” The choice is up to you. Happy New Year and Welcome Back!