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Chico State

Determining What ‘Do and Dare’ Means For Us All

President Gayle Hutchinson and her brother pose with their bikes on a cross-country trip.
Photo courtesy of Gayle Hutchinson

By now you’ve probably heard the phrase “Do and Dare,” our new way of referring to the transformative experience that takes place for students, faculty, and staff at Chico State. This concept is about purposeful action and taking ownership of today in order to influence tomorrow.

Each day, class, professor, connection, and activity—every act of “doing” at Chico State—is an opportunity to truly experience the life you want to live, to build on it, and to dream bigger for a better tomorrow. Chico State students are doers, who graduate darers, ready to take on any challenge that awaits them with energy and enthusiasm.

While we are all Wildcats, do and dare means something different to each of us. When I hear the phrase, my mind wanders to aspirations and goals I set for myself in the future. But my thoughts also turn to times in the past when I dared to do something without knowing exactly how it would turn out.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I had just completed my master’s degree, resigned from a teaching position, and headed back to graduate school full time to earn my doctorate. As I was packing up to move, I became seriously ill with symptoms that soon became life-altering.

I was so sick my family had to move me into my new apartment while I went to the doctor’s office for a battery of tests. Days later I stood waiting by a public payphone to hear my test results. I’ll never forget the words the nurse said to me with a sense of calm and urgency melded together: “You are in a critical state, seek medical assistance immediately.”

By the next morning, I was admitted into a hospital that specialized in treating insulin-dependent diabetes. That’s right, I was diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic and frankly, I thought the aspirations and joys in my life were over. I spent the next eight days receiving medical treatments and taking a crash course in how to check my blood sugar, give myself insulin shots, measure my food to mitigate a rise in blood sugar, and get back to living life.

I won’t lie—it was a scary time. Although alone, I wasn’t really alone. I shared the floor, meals, and classes with about 20 other people with diabetes. The cohort was comprised of varied ages and health. I was in good company indeed.

Learning how to reframe your life in a matter of days is a really tough task, and one that takes resilience and courage. And, wouldn’t you know, the one cohort member who demonstrated those two traits to me the strongest was a 6-year-old boy? The day or two before we went home, he walked up to me and asked me to accompany him across the street to the hospital’s gift shop so that he could buy a gift for his mother. As we walked hand-in-hand, I felt his zest for life. And as we talked, his words conveyed hopes and dreams for a bright future. He did not see his diagnosis as the end of his life, he saw it as something to live with.

Diabetes, something to live with, huh.

Later that day, I was encouraged to go to the park and take a walk, by myself. I think it was the nurses’ way of promoting my independence. After all, I was returning to my life the next day. The nurses packed me a snack to take in case my blood sugar ran low. I was given two rice cakes, a slice of American cheese, and a small bottle of orange juice.

I walked in the park for a while then sat on the bench to have my snack. I watched the people around me run, bike, stroll, and play, all appearing happy and without a care in the world. In turn, I cried. Then, I had a talk with myself. I could either continue to mourn my loss of health or I could choose not to let this disease define me, nor limit me.

It was in that moment that I found my resilience and courage. In that moment, I made my decision to do and dare. And, I never looked back.

Sure, it was scary to live with diabetes after I left the hospital, but I did it. I went on to set a goal and ride my bike 500 miles with my older brother, Doug Hutchinson, who is also insulin-dependent and has been now for 62 years. The picture with this column shows us with our bikes together in Connecticut. We wanted to show other diabetics that they could enjoy life and manage their disease.

I also went on to compete in a triathlon while managing my blood sugar. I graduated with my EdD. I also committed to a National Institute of Health study that has examined the effects of insulin diabetes over the last 35 years. 

For more than three decades I have chosen to do and dare! And it all goes back to a moment when I was sitting alone on a bench in a park and wondering about my uncertain future. Because of the choice I made that day, I continue to thrive.

I believe the phrase Do and Dare resonates with the Wildcat spirit in all of us. And I hope that everyone regularly considers what it means for you. Whether you are a first-generation student pushing through your first semester of college, a sophomore declaring your major for the first time, a senior deciding to apply for graduate school, a staff member with a vision for an innovative program, or a faculty member who dreams of leading groundbreaking research, we each have the chance to do and dare every day.

What will you dare to do next?