Back To The Future

Life's benchmarks come in many shapes and sizes. Like mileposts, we tend to blow by them unaware until they add up to a significant distance.

Columns From: 10/1/2001 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Chris Koepfer

Life's benchmarks come in many shapes and sizes. Like mileposts, we tend to blow by them unaware until they add up to a significant distance. Then we tend to look back and wonder about what we may have missed.

My wife and I recently hit one of those benchmarks when we moved our firstborn into new digs: a dorm at Miami University. It was one of those moments that parents plan for and anticipate but never really accept.

Freshman move-in at Miami, and most likely all universities, is chaotic to say the least. Kids on the cusp of tasting freedom and its requisite responsibility champ at the bit to begin the experience.

The exercise reminded me of my college days. How could my son be old enough to go to a university? How could I be old enough to have a son going to a university? Well, truth prevails. He is, and I am; time to get over it.

I took a little time to stroll around campus. It was a perfect day, and Miami has a beautiful campus in Oxford, Ohio.

I reflected on the journey my son is about to embark on. My advantage, of course, is that I've "been there, done that." Needless to say though, no freshman worth his or her salt would acknowledge that a fossil like me could have any useful information for a newly minted, all knowing, high school graduate.

It's natural to try and overlay my school experience with what I expect my son will encounter—and of course try to impart my lessons learned. I've tried to do that since first grade and basically learned that his time and place is different than mine and will always be so.

On my stroll, I was also thinking about our current manufacturing malaise. One good thing about having seen the up and down cycle that is a hallmark of manufacturing is I have confidence that what's down now will come back.

It's interesting to see how some of my younger colleagues react to the downturn. It's a new and somewhat disconcerting experience. For them, the last 8 years of steady growth have been normal. That's simply not the way it works. Many a hotshot M.B.A. has been humbled by the vagaries of metalworking.

My son doesn't yet know some of the treats and temptations that will come his way in the next 4 years, but his parents do. To me, getting experience is what the whole journey is about. Whether it's academic or real world, I look at college and career as a single educational continuum. I hope in a few years my son sees it similarly.

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