Before I became the vice president of the Aspen and Roaring Fork campuses at Colorado Mountain College, I was a college counselor. Over the course of eight years, I advised hundreds of students on career choices, class schedules and how to achieve their degrees.
I asked them a lot of questions about their dreams and goals, and I gave them the best advice I could to set them on a journey to realize those dreams. As high school seniors are now anticipating graduation, a lot of dreams are being envisioned. I remember, too, when I was in their shoes — it sets me to thinking: Would my own life be different if I knew back then what I know now? How would I have advised my younger, not-yet-so-wise, 18-year-old self?
So here is what I came up with if I could sit down and have a talk with myself and share advice gleaned from 20 or 30 years of experience.
Advice to my younger self: Joe, have fun and enjoy your high school years, but make sure you do your best in learning what you need to know academically before you get to college.
I spent a couple of semesters in college completing remedial coursework because I was not prepared for the rigor of college courses. This can set you back both in time and money, so if you work hard in high school, your college years will go much smoother.
A second piece of advice: Joe, take more chances and know it’s not the end of the world if you fail at something.
I didn’t start college right out of high school but rather enlisted in the Army for a couple of years to be eligible for the GI bill to help pay for my education. During my stint in the Army, I had the opportunity to go to Airborne training and get my “Jump wings” as a paratrooper.
I really wanted to do this but was afraid I would not be up to the challenge of the rigorous, eight-week training required in jump school. I also would have had to enlist another year with the Army, which I was not willing to do at that time. As a result, I will never know if I could have made it through the training and what it would feel like to jump out of a perfectly good airplane as a paratrooper.
My final bit of advice: Joe, take time for your family and friends more often. Getting your degree and working up the career ladder will take an enormous amount of your personal time, but be sure not to sacrifice spending time with loved ones in exchange for your career aspirations. Careers are replaceable, close meaningful relationships are not.
Whatever you do Joe, don’t take life so seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself and your mistakes and know that you will always be faced with challenges no matter how old you are. The key is to not let these challenges take away from enjoying your life to the fullest.
Take care of yourself, Joe, good talking to you, and I’m sure you’ll do just fine.
— Joe Maestas is a vice president at Colorado Mountain College and the CEO of the Aspen Campus and Roaring Fork Campus (with sites in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley). He will retire in August of this year and move on to the next chapter in his life.