When I meet people in official settings such as work or school, I tend to wonder what that person is like outside of those parameters. Many times I’ve met people who I can’t stand in the professional sense but when you get to know who they are, they aren’t actually that bad. I’ve realized that for one reason or another, it’s difficult to get to really know people until you know their full story. What makes them tick? What motivates this person? Over the course of my life I have always had different motivators in my life that drove my decisions and actions. School, work, family, bills, fear and selfishness are only a few of the things that have motivated me to do one thing or another. When I sit back and really think about it, the first thing that drives me is my passion for my hobbies.
I was raised in a family that valued fixing things that were broken. I can remember as a small child getting my very first tool box with little plastic tools. From what I remember, I took those things everywhere. When I outgrew that first box I remember getting one that was shaped like a car that had little electric drills and things I could play with. I even remember getting under the truck with my dad while he was working on something and bringing my tools with me. More often than not, my birthday presents have been a tool of some sort. Whether it was my first set of wrenches or a brand new socket set, tools have always a special part in my heart.
When I moved to college the first thing I had to get over was the fact that I did not have a garage, the second was that I couldn’t ride my motorcycle. As long as I’ve been working on things with my tools both real and fake, there have been motorcycles that needed to be fixed. By the time I was 5 years old I had already sat back and watched my dad rebuild a little motorcycle for me. When I was 8, he brought home a lawn mower motor that we disassembled together and he showed me how it worked. When I was 11, I rebuilt my first motorcycle and from there the passion continued. I have had a motorcycle and a project through all of the major stages in my life. High school, college, graduate school and post grad have all had motorcycle adventures of some sort. There is never a time where I feel more at peace with my life than when I am flying down a trail. This sense of zen also applies to when I’m covered in oil and hanging out in the garage.
My newest hobby has been rock climbing and I have gone from totally disinterest to wildly obsessed. Much like riding motorcycles and tinkering, I find great satisfaction in the puzzle of climbing. Every single pitch is a new adventure and requires a new view to get things correctly. I have also been fascinated with the systems involved, granted these keep you alive so you should care about them. As with most puzzles, I tend to go a little overboard. I want to know exactly why I need certain things to be a certain way and in what situations I can make changes. Climbing also provides me with a sense of isolation from my own thoughts. There is no time for thoughts of work, social life or that errand I have to run when I’m 20 feet above my last piece.
Hobbies are great but they don’t always fill the sense of purpose that I feel I need. What does give me a sense of purpose is my career. Throughout my life there have always been ideas of what I wanted to do when “I grew up” but it changed up until I was in my final year of college. After realizing that physical therapy was not something that I was interested in and as such my degree was about to be “useless”, I was in a bad place. I needed to figure out exactly what I was going to do after I graduated and at the prompting of my mentors, I pursued a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs. To most people, that is gibberish. The way I explained it to people who asked was “I’m learning about how college students develop throughout their 3–6 years in college and in what ways I can create meaningful engagement. I’m also learning about how to interact in the collegiate administrative environment, that’s just as important.”
After getting my degree at The Ohio State University, it was very apparent that social justice, student leadership and first generation programing was something that I was passionate about. As a first generation student who came from a low income area, there has been many times where I felt like an imposter in the collegiate environment. Throughout my time as a professional I’ve already had a few times when I’ve been able to pass on some knowledge to students in need. My goal is simply to help students who need it, if I can help one student or 100, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.
My final principle, tenet, core value or whatever you’d call it is my love of education. Now this doesn’t mean education in the official sense. Sure it’s awesome to better yourself by pursuing a degree in higher education, but not everyone has the opportunity to do that. For me, it’s learning for the simple pleasure of learning. I’ve been known to read Wikipedia about for hours ranging from comic books to quantum physics. I wouldn’t say that I’ve become an expert in anything because of my research online, but I’ve definitely learned a few things that have come in handy at trivia. In my mind, my retired years will consist of me going to the local community college to take random classes that I find interesting at the time. Maybe by then it’ll be something cool like space travel for dummies, who knows.
There are many ways to live a valuable and productive life, for me it’s the above values. For others it may be completely different and that’s fine. I do think that you can really tell who someone is by how they spend their free time. At the end of the day people work jobs that they don’t like or live in places that they don’t want to because of all sorts of reasons. When you find out how someone spends their time and what really makes them happy, you get a little glimpse into their world. My name is Paul Rehn and I do things that make me happy.