February 11, 2021

Keep trying new things in 2021.

In 2020, we learned how to do things differently — we adapted, we tried new things, some doors temporarily closed while others opened. We cooked, we walked, we read and we got creative in maintaining connections. This will carry forward in 2021 as mask wearing and social distancing will continue for the first half of the year at a minimum. Why not carry the idea of trying new things into 2021? Here are some thoughts that come to mind.

For many of us — no matter what role we play at home or work — our schedules changed. Some of us suddenly had extra time because of reduced driving and Zoom meetings or classes instead of being in-person. Unfortunately, many lost jobs temporarily or permanently. We lost track of the calendar as days of the week blended together. And we did things differently, often because we had to adapt. As a college president, I certainly did not imagine I’d be recording video messages to fully remote-learning students on my phone from my kitchen. This was part of the new normal.

If you continue to have some extra hours to spare and have come to expect the unexpected, this might be a great time to pursue something that’s been in the back of your head for some time. Maybe planning a spring garden, volunteering or community service or taking a class would make the list. Being an educator, the first thing I think of is a class in a subject in which you have some personal or professional interest.

Flipping through our options at White Mountains Community College, we have many offerings that might be fun as a single class in an area of interest, or a toe dipping into a new field.

Dendrology anyone?

If you’re like me, you’re mostly eating at home — why not up your game by taking a baking class?

Are you a closet NCIS junkie – how about forensic science? Are you trying to keep a family online at maximum speed and have become an IT at home DIYer? Then maybe it’s an IT essentials class. Have you recently spent a lot of time looking out the window and wondering if you could improve your landscaping? How about a course in Dendrology? It’s the study of plants and shrubs and could give you great insight about what does and does not thrive in Northern New Hampshire. I could go on. Bottom line — these are all course offerings and there is much more to explore if your curiosity in a topic motivates you to take a deeper dive.

Then move ahead a bit further into 2021 — trying new things could blossom into finding a first career or new career; for some, remote working may mean that they can work anywhere in the country (or world perhaps) and be a North Country resident. For many others, a hybrid working, or educational routine may be a longer-term option, which will keep the miles off your car, improve air quality and continue to give you a little more time to invest in yourself.

Yes, 2020 was a highly disruptive year for many and I don’t want to sugarcoat that. My heart goes out to the 2020 high school seniors who missed out on many life events and were challenged to stay connected to friends, teachers and even family members. For some in this class, that disruption continued in the fall with decisions to postpone or forgo college or continuing education.

There’s plenty of time to catch up from what was missed in 2020.

I am aware of many students that did not go anywhere. This situation is more rampant in rural areas, particularly in Northern New Hampshire. Many new high school grads who decided against college or travel due to the pandemic are now at the point of reconsidering and planning for the fall of 2021. For the first time, many see a bright light through this tunnel, and it seems to point to a slow turn to normalcy this summer and fall.

Industries that have either shuttered their doors or have constricted significantly, particularly the hospitality industry, will be poised to ramp back up and the memories of the pre-COVID workforce shortage will be front and center again. There will be opportunities for more jobs, for retraining and for apprenticeships. Think about the backlog of delayed weddings, celebrations and vacations. The North Country is typically a magnet for travelers in all seasons, but the summer through leaf-peeping season could be prime for 2021.

The Omni Mount Washington Hotel is a good example. We had WMCC students doing apprenticeships at the hotel, but because their kitchens essentially closed last March, we brought those students over to our Berlin campus to use our kitchen and finish out their program. When the Omni does reopen at full scale, these students will be ready to work.

If you are feeling stuck or have an itch to try something new, this really is a great time to do it. While gardening will have to wait a while longer, give some thought to your future and your career. If you’re fresh out of high school and you are interested in sampling, I encourage you to take a course or two.

If you’re out in the workforce, already have a degree and are looking to change careers, bring us what you have for experience and knowledge and let us see where that aligns and give you the shortest distance if you’re looking for a different degree. If you’re looking to refine or re-skill, we can lay out a small package of a few courses that’ll get you to where you want to be. The options are endless.

WMCC is a great resource for those seeking to dive deeper into their careers and interests. That’s part of our mission as a North Country community member. We focus on customization and meeting people where they are. We’re always going to be here, pandemic or no pandemic. And we’re here when you’re ready to come back.

Dr. Charles Lloyd is the president of White Mountains Community College. Located in Berlin with satellite campuses in Littleton and North Conway, WMCC is one of seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire and offers Associate Degree and Certificate programs, plus training options, preparing students for 21st century job opportunities, as well as transfer pathways to four-year colleges and universities.