How To Pick a College.

I remember the first time I visited Mizzou. It was towards the end of the winter — maybe late February or early March. There weren’t flights to Columbia back then, so you had to fly to St. Louis, and then take the MoX shuttle to town. (Meet near the mural of astronauts at baggage claim, grab your complementary 8 oz. bottle of water when you board the van, two hours to Columbia. I’d eventually learn that ride by heart.)

I was riding in the back row of the MoX, sitting next to a man in his 50s. We struck up a conversation. He’d gone to Mizzou, and he loved the place — loved the teachers, loved the school spirit, loved Columbia. If Mizzou had sat me down next to Truman the Tiger and played the fight song for two hours, they wouldn’t have found a better cheerleader for the university.

I went into the weekend curious about Mizzou — but not sold on it. I had always wanted to go to school in a college town. I loved schools with school spirit, and with big sports programs. I wanted to go to a place with a great J-school, and I wanted a place that was a little different than the D.C. suburbs.

Columbia, Mo., was certainly all that.

But I didn’t really know what I liked about Mizzou until I started talking to the people who knew it best.

It was that guy in the back of the MoX, telling me why he loved Mizzou. It was the reporter who took time while traveling on assignment to call and tell me what the J-school had done for him. It was the friend of a friend who made sure I knew about the lifelong friendships he’d made at school.

They helped reveal something special about the culture at Mizzou — and it’s only through hearing the stories of the people who’d been there that I knew where I wanted to go to college.

If you’re reading this and you’re picking a college, here’s my best advice: No matter where you go, your experience at school will be shaped by the people around you. Even at the biggest schools, you start to break down a campus into smaller communities: Clubs, teams, classes.

It always ends up being about the people.

So when you’re picking a school — or for that matter, a job, or a place to live — talk to the people who’ve been there. They’ll reveal far more about the place than any college guidebook or tour will.

One more story: I remember when my little brother was visiting colleges. He was down to two final schools: Michigan and Southern Cal. He visited Michigan in the dead of winter — early February, temps far below freezing. He visited USC a few weeks later — I don’t believe the temperature went below 72 or above 75 degrees all weekend.

We were sure he was going to pick USC.

And then he told us he was going to Michigan.

Why? Because, he said, he’d thought a lot about the types of kids he knew who were at Michigan, or who’d gone to Michigan. They were the kind of kids he wanted to be: Passionate, hard-working, humble, smart.

And if kids like that belonged at Michigan, then he did, too.

Look to the people, listen to their stories. They’ll guide you to a place that’s right for you.

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I took that photo back in 2007 at a Mizzou baseball game.

You Can Quit When You Have A Good Day.

On Saturday, I was in midtown for a Cycle for Survival ride.(1) I heard some incredible speeches that day — including one from Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Nastia Liukin.

She told this great story. She said that when she was a kid, she’d come home after a bad day and try to quit gymnastics, but her mom wouldn’t let her. “You can quit,” her mom would say, “but you can’t quit until after you’ve had a good day.”(2)

So she’d go back to the gym day after day, until she finally had a good day. And on that good day, she’d come home, and her mom would see the smile on her face. ”OK,” her mom would ask her. “Do you still want to quit now?”

Of course, Liukin wouldn’t — and she went on to become one of the most decorated Olympians in U.S. gymnastics history.

I listened to that story and nodded along the whole time. You’ve probably experienced it, too: Things are never as quite bad as they seem on your worst days, and never quite as good as they feel on your best days. But sometimes, when you’re in a lull, you find little ways to dig yourself out and get back to a better place. It’s easy to want to give up when things are bad. It’s much harder to be resilient enough to keep pushing through with the work you need to do.

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That very shaky GIF was the view from my bike at last week’s Cycle ride.

  1. If you’ve got the chance to be a part of one, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was SO inspiring.
  2. Both of her parents were gymnasts, so they may have known a thing or two about tough days at the gym.

Things Change Quickly.

I’m just old enough to remember the artifacts of the recent past. I remember computers with MS-DOS and floppy disks. I remember the first time I saw an iMac in my elementary school’s computer lab. I remember the dial-up sound. I remember when the librarians at my middle school showed us how to use Google. I remember my first iPod (2005), my first Kindle (2008), my first iPad (2010), and my first iPhone (2018 — I was a little late to the game). I remember standing on a street corner in Pittsburgh in 2016 and seeing one of Uber’s driverless cars drive past.

Of course, I also remember where I was in 2004, the last time Justin Timberlake played the Super Bowl halftime show: at home, watching with a group of friends on the couch. I remember that only two of us actually noticed the famous moment with Timberlake and Janet Jackson: My friend, Ani, and my mother, both of whom immediately said, “Did anyone else just see her nipple?” (I completely missed it.)

And here’s the thing about 2004: We didn’t have a DVR or a TiVo at the Oshinsky house. (I don’t think we had a DVD player yet, tbh.) There was no social media to confirm what we’d seen. There was no YouTube — watching video on the internet was still a pretty rare thing. There were no TV replays, obviously, of the moment, and it would have been a while before any news organization had a story online about the moment. (Also, fun fact: This particular halftime show was sponsored by AOL!)  I remember was my mother calling her friends on the phone, asking if they’d seen what she had seen, and then reading about it in the paper the next morning, and then watching “PTI” the next night, knowing that they’d probably be the only place that would be talking about the moment and showing (highly censored) video of it.

That was 14 years ago. Why does it feel like forever ago?

I wrote about that phenomenon last year, in a post about smartphones and Shazam:

“If you would have told me in 2005 that one day, there would be a magical, mobile device that could listen to and identify songs on the radio, I would have been amazed. That was something that could only happen… in the future!

The future, it turns out, is happening right now. In the dozen years since I couldn’t remember the name of a ZZ Top song, nearly everything that exists in our day-to-day lives has changed. The technology, the tools, the resources — it’s all changed.

In just a dozen years.

And I cannot imagine what we’ll have at our fingertips in the year 2029. The changes, I’m sure, will astound all of us.”

If the “wardrobe malfunction” had happened today, we would have known immediately. We would have replayed it on our TV. We would have gone on Twitter to see GIFs of the moment. We would have read nearly instantaneous reactions and commentary on the web. By the time the game was over, we would have logged onto Instagram to see memes of the moment — and targeted ads selling T-shirts about it, or his-and-her Halloween costumes featuring Janet and Justin.

I have no idea what will happen tonight, but I’m sure of this: Whatever does happen, a decade from now, we’ll look back on it the way we look back on 2004, and wonder: Was that really how things were back then? What happens in 2018 will soon feel like forever ago, too.