Sept. 23, 2015
I’ve previously mentioned that I count stairs as I climb or descend them, which is probably a little weird. What I didn’t mention is that often while I’m just walking, I count my steps in eight-count, like a dancer learning steps — except I’m not a dancer. Nor have I ever been one. Well, except for that short stint in ninth grade where I took jazz with some friends. Though I eventually got to wear a glittery cowboy hat in a recital, I first ended up on crutches after attempting a leap I wasn’t ready for. Maybe I missed the eight-count.
Then again, ending up on crutches was one of the best things to happen to me that first year of high school. Sure, it hurt like heck and it didn’t look very pretty, but it also helped me make one of my very best friends. My French teacher assigned Amy to carry my books to my next class. At first, I panicked. Amy was a cheerleader and I assumed she would want nothing to do with me. I figured we had nothing in common — how wrong I was. To this day, Amy is still one of my dearest and closest friends. Good thing I didn’t let our differences blind me from a lasting friendship. She loves me for who I am, weirdness and all.
And I can be somewhat weird. When I’m walking in eight-count, it’s often to music I’m only hearing in my head. I have conversations with my dog where I answer back for her — complete with a voice I’ve made up. There are times when I literally have to use every bit of my Spartans Will to stop talking. I have a double-jointed thumb and a hyperextended back. I like beef stroganoff but hate mushrooms. I absolutely cannot eat chicken wings because the thought of eating meat off a bone makes me gag — the same goes for ribs. It freaks me out if someone’s bare feet touch me and my hip cracks so loudly it sounds like a gunshot. I have, what my boss refers to as, “the shining.” Basically, I sometimes have flashes of psychic ability. I’m addicted to cheese and I eat my Reese’s cups by nibbling off the edges first. (Though I strongly prefer Reese’s eggs to the cups—they’re way better, right? Something with the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate.)
Whatever weirdness I have, I own it. Luckily, I have many friends and family who love me despite my quirks. Just like I have a wide group of people whom I love despite theirs. (Though I have a hard time with a couple of them who don’t like chocolate and peanut butter together. How is that even possible?)
When Marc Reed, a senior studying human resource management, first came to MSU he was worried about being accepted for who he is. His fears were quickly put aside once he realized that Spartans are open, accepting and diverse. He found that the Spartan culture provided a sense of belonging he was looking for. Now, as a Homecoming Court Ambassador, he says, “MSU has a place and niche for everyone.” Read his STUDENT VIEW: Spartan Culture to learn more about his experiences.
John Beck is an associate professor of human resources and labor relations. He is a strong believer in sharing diverse thought and ideas. He’s one of the organizers of a lecture series that brings together trans-disciplinary panels of MSU faculty and staff to talk on provocative and overarching “big” topics. He believes that some of his best conversations came from happenstance when he ended up sitting by someone different. His goal is to use the series to offer more chances for people from different backgrounds to interact and learn from each other. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Trans-disciplinary Conversations, to learn more about his philosophy and the program.
My nephew started at MSU this fall as a freshman. I was lucky enough the other day to meet some of his new friends. As we chatted, I was struck by how different they all are; yet how being Spartans has given them a basis for friendship and connection. They come from different parts of Michigan, out of state and even born out of the country. They’re male and female and from different ethnic backgrounds. They’re artists and athletes and interested in different academic disciplines. They’re all extremely bright, polite and smart kids. I’m sure they all have some bit of weirdness, after all, who doesn’t? Though only Spartans for a few weeks, they already understand what being a Spartan is all about. Spartans keep open minds, celebrate differences and understand that collective power can change the world. Spartans Will.
Photo of "Containment" at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum by Derrick L. Turner