I have been thinking these last few days about my friend Sammy, who headed off to college over the weekend. I suppose that no matter the generation there is a lot about that first arrival that remains constant over time. The car loaded with belongings and the makings of a one-room home; unloading and schlepping boxes, lamps and more personal effects through corridors of chaos and nervous excitement; quick how-do-you-dos to roommates, dormmates, and parents of same; hands shoved into pockets to prevent nail-biting; tearful or grateful goodbyes, and then the thundering awareness that life will never be the same.
(did you know that July is national lasagna awareness month? I think we should all come up with an obscure occasion to honor and pick a month for it...)I am remembering my own llife transition inaugurated by those college years. So much to learn, and most of it not academic. Or let me put it this way--I'm not sure the academic things have stuck, but other lessons have proven foundational. I learned a good deal about people, and a lot about myself. And I find that each episode of my life pretty much contains the same table of contents: things I learned about people, things I learned about myself.
The labels are misleading. Though the categories remain the same, the content varies. Through good times and bad the human character reveals its tendencies toward kindness and generosity, manipulation and deception, longing and inclusion. The darkness of betrayal begs for understanding and the heart seeks wholeness the way seedlings seek warmth and light. Paradoxically it was in good times that I learned most about my weaknesses, and in challenging times that I discovered my strengths. We tumble through the depth and breadth of life, sometimes nudged gently, sometimes catapulted with the kind of force that renders us feeling helpless. Rough edges have the opportunity to become polished, and cracks that become exposed lead either to healing or scarring that masks deeper damage.
- When difficulty arises between myself and another I have learned to evaluate what part I contributed to the problem. I seek to take responsibility for my part and recognize that the rest belongs to the other.
- I have learned to seek value hidden by disappointment, not denying a sense of loss, but not allowing myself to be stopped or limited by it.
- I try to make the best of what I have rather than dwell on what I don't have.
- My glass has shifted from a sense of being half empty to the reality that it is half full.
- I honor pain and loss, my own and that of others
There are other lessons learned, but these are the ones that are riding in the front seat of my consciousness this morning. Sammy is at the edge of a life-shaping adventure. From the vantage point of a different generation I can smile thinking about what lies ahead for her and those whose steps follow that same path this fall. Academics have their A's and B's. Life, on the other hand, transcends pass/fail. It's all good.