‘Dear Boomer’: What do I even do with my education?

50 years ago, I rode my Kawasaki from Portola Valley onto campus, usually squeaking into class just on time. While much has changed since then, one thing has remained constant: our humanness. We still search for meaning and need connection. We still have dreams and we still screw up. In the last 50 years, as I’ve changed careers and locations, I’ve never stopped appreciating and observing my fellow companions. So, “Ask Boomer” anything. Surprise me. Life is short. Let’s add on to it.

— Helen Hudson ’74

Want your question to be featured in the next column? Ask Helen here!

While I’m going into my last year at Stanford, what’s the best thing I can do with the time I have left?

I’m going to flip the order of your question because a mistake we often make is putting our “selves” last. Personally, I suggest you make as many good friendships as you can now. These will last a lifetime and affect everything else, including your career. Career-wise, don’t limit yourself to just one thing. If there’s something you think you can do — try it. This will keep you adding more colors to your life’s palette. As for academics, keep this in mind: it is unlikely anyone will ever ask you for your grades, so don’t kill yourself for all A’s. It is more important to build yourself as a person. That will translate more than any letter on a sheet of paper.

As a sophomore who has explored various subjects, I’m still struggling to find the major for me. Any advice for students like me who feel overwhelmed?

There is no “perfect” thing for you. If you’re lucky, you will find many wonderful yet often “imperfect” things ahead of you. Your world is rich with choices. The only way to keep them from overwhelming you is to try things one at a time. The more you try, the more you’ll discover what you do and don’t like. This will ultimately lead you to what you love and are good at. As for me, I majored in communications, intent on being the next great investigative reporter only to find that people told me too much. I was assigned my first big story and realized that if I told it, too many people would suffer from the truth. Eventually, I realized being a therapist was more rewarding and much less cruel.

I’m intimidated by the thought of approaching professors for guidance. Can you share your experience with building relationships with faculty members?

Here’s a little secret about professors: they love to feel important. Otherwise, they’d never have put themselves in front of a podium! So, ask away. No need to feel intimidated. They want to be asked for advice. They want to feel like their input is important. Not only that, ask all of your professors for advice. This is the time to ask questions. The time for answering them will come later. As for me, I happened to play volleyball on Sundays with one of my professors. I wasn’t very good. However, almost 20 years later, he hired me for a major writing project. Who knew?