Sheila Sybrant

A popular activity at this time of year in particular is “the search for meaning.”

After all, a new year brings self-reflection and a desire to find purpose.

I, too, am searching for meaning — but if you’re thinking that this column is about a search for the meaning of life and contains enlightening nuggets of wisdom about why humans are on this earth, well, you will undoubtedly be disappointed.

I am searching for meaning, but not quite on the scale of life itself. I like to create attainable goals, so I’ve decided to start small and try to find meaning in a class.

To keep my teaching certificate current while not actively teaching, I have to complete a certain number of credit hours’ worth of classes every so many years. I will take my last class for this certificate cycle this spring semester.

There are many reasons to take classes, and having to take one is perhaps the most utilitarian reason of all. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be meaningful.

Of course, there are limits. I don’t mean limits to meaning — although there might be limits to that, too. What I mean is that there are limits to the selection of classes.

My teaching endorsements are English and journalism, so the class has to be in one of those two fields. Having long ago completed my undergraduate degree, the class has to be a graduate offering. It has to be a class that I haven’t already taken. And it needs to be an online class because the commute would be rather grueling otherwise.

So, as you can see, limits.

I found myself faced with three possible choices. Two are literature classes, and one is a journalism class.

It was a difficult choice. In general, I find all classes meaningful in some way. But some classes are more meaningful than others.

I think you can safely guess, since English is one of my endorsements, that I enjoy reading.

And I love literature classes.

And yet — sometimes I don’t. Sometimes professors are too intent, in my opinion, on forcing meaning from written works. I have wondered more than once whether an author actually intended a meaning that a professor teaches as a certainty.

As a teacher, I tried to be careful about not imposing meaning where it might not be. I didn’t always feel certain enough of what other people meant when they wrote something. Who am I, after all, to presume that a certain person meant a certain something when they wrote a book or short story?

Naturally, it was my job as a teacher to get students to think critically about meaning and discern the possibilities in a work. But meaning, it seems to me, is what you get from a work, not what an author gives to you.

Perhaps that is why I always enjoyed the grammar and writing aspects of teaching English better.

The mere learning of these concepts was meaningful because they were useful skills.

So, after careful consideration, I chose the journalism class, which will be focused on ethics in mass communication, with a focus on digital communications.

I don’t have much of a presence on social media, so perhaps this is an odd choice, but I figured that in our current environment, anything focused on ethics should be meaningful.

The concept of “meaning” probably has almost as many different interpretations as there are people. Regardless, as 2020 begins, my wish for you is that in this new year you find “meaning” — whatever that means to you.

Readers may contact Sheila at svsybrant@gmail.com or 45092 859th Road, Bassett, NE 68714.

In other news

WAYNE — An explosive first half led the Wayne State women to a 78-73 Northern Sun Conference win over Minnesota State University-Moorhead at Rice Auditorium here on Friday evening.

WAYNE — The Wayne State men's basketball team wasted a first-half comeback against Minnesota State University-Moorhead as the Dragons rebounded in the second 20 minutes to finish off an 82-71 win over the Wildcats here at Rice Auditorium Friday evening.

Rats can drive cars. Not your car or my car. (Their legs really wouldn’t reach the pedals, after all.) Rather, researchers have created tiny cars just for their lab rats and certain experiments and have taught the little critters how to drive.