Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2007 | Features

Pearls of Wisdom

By Stephen Bloom
A UI professor offers students his best advice on life.
UI students receive a lesson in art—and in life—courtesy of Jackson Pollock and the UI Museum of Art.

Number nine on Stephen Bloom's checklist of "25 things all young Iowans need to know" may seem startling to the teenager brimming with self-confidence: Realize there will always be people cooler than you.

Oh, the horror.

And perhaps hard to believe for some scrappy young person who thinks he has life by the horns. But before this next generation ventures out into the real world, UI journalism professor Bloom offers a few suggestions—a selection of witty and insightful tips that recently appeared in the Des Moines Register.

Chiefly, Bloom suggests that travel beyond Iowa and U.S. borders promises just about the best education a young person can get, no offense to the outstanding school system in the Hawkeye state. He goes on to point out the merits of reading spirited books about adventure, such as Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and working a job outside a mall or grocery store. According to Bloom, students should really make an effort to learn Spanish in high school, play a musical instrument, write for the school newspaper, chat up a crush, and eat breakfast at the Hamburg Inn.

They should also make the most of what Iowa has to offer. "Get yourself to Des Moines to visit the two best museums in Iowa—the State Historical Museum and the Des Moines Art Center," Bloom instructs. Twenty-second on the list is his tip not to miss the UI's Museum of Art, specifically the Jackson Pollock painting.

He offers some critical advice, too. Take No 13: "Kids who are dopers are losers. Drinking is not cool. Don't drive with someone who does either. Chances are not slim that you will get into an accident, maybe a fatal one." Or No. 21: "Don't smoke. It's an expensive habit, will make you smell, and likely will shorten your life. It'll also burn holes in your shirts."

Towards the end of the list, Bloom sounds a cautionary, humorous note for those who take his advice and leave the state. In No. 20, he says: "Be aware that if you move from Iowa, people might not know that supper and dinner are different; that pop and soda are the same; what Maid-Rite sandwiches are; and that you visit with someone." And he ends with, "Outside of Iowa, there's no need to correct those who confuse Iowa with Ohio and Idaho. It's all the same to them."

Sprinkled throughout Bloom's list is poignant advice, lessons from a man who's had some time to figure out what's important: "Life is a series of distinct moments," he writes. "Be aware of when they happen."

Now that one applies to any Iowan, young or old.