Thursday, July 8, 2010
college makes you think
that's what it's supposed to do, right? good news, mom and dad: not only have i finally used my ten years of french study, but i am now thinking things directly related to college. your gazillion-dollar investment has in fact paid off, so you can rest easier now.
last week, sam and i took luke to visit our alma mater, hamilton college (that's the chapel up there in that photograph, incidentally, worth noting for being the location of sam's and my wedding; for being a historically significant building, built in 1827 and thought to be the only remaining example of an early three-story church in america; and for having a quill atop its cupola, symbolizing the college's commitment to teaching the art of communication, which will matter to my story in a little bit, if you'll stick with me). we introduced luke to coaches and professors, showed him dorms and dining halls, told him stories (only the ones appropriate for six-year-olds, mind you!) and highlights. when i pointed out the building where most of my english classes were held, luke was incredulous. "you didn't learn english until college?" i explained that studying english in college meant reading lots of good books and talking about them. to which explanation he even more incredulously declared, "i want to go to a college where all you do is read books all day!"
which got me thinking--you knew it would--about the power of retrospection. luke is right, after all. it is pretty amazing, when i think about it, that i spent four years of my life consumed by nothing other than reading books and diving. that's it. those were my jobs. reading, writing, and being in the water. don't i consider those my hobbies now, hobbies i struggle to cram in between so many other jobs, hobbies i would choose to do above all else? i vaguely remember college being stressful, but i can't for the life of me figure out how it could have been, looking at it from here.
and if you're a mom of more than one child, you've likely thought similar things in retrospect about life with your first baby. when luke was born, i quit work and stayed home. as a newborn, luke slept, ate, cried, slept, ate, and slept some more. my job was to do those things with him. and that was it. i vaguely remember thinking that his newborn weeks were most certainly the hardest i had ever endured. two years later, when eliza was born, i looked back at luke's newborn life and wondered what on earth was so hard about it.
hindsight is 20/20, or so they say.
this train of thinking can take me in two different directions, the first of which is somewhat dangerous, i think. if i can look back at all these different phases of my life and say that if i knew then what i know now, i would never have thought they were hard, then looking forward can be very intimidating. for if what seems hard now will soon seem easy in comparison to what i will be experiencing, what can possibly be to come? it's a fearful thought. i do not think i would have liked to have known, when i was stressed out by an english paper, that i ought to just appreciate how simple life really was because in a few years i would have to endure the loss of my daughter. similarly, i would not have wanted someone to tell me, when i sat up at night grudgingly nursing luke, that i would soon spend three years straight sitting up at night "nursing" his dying little sister. hindsight is 20/20, maybe, but foresight is not always desirable.
but the other direction i can go with these thoughts is toward gratitude. if i can look back at college and be grateful for having spent four years doing things i now know to be among my greatest loves, if i can look back at luke's newborn weeks and be thankful for the hours i spent as his one-and-only and he mine, why can't i start thinking now about the things i'll look back on about today and be grateful for them now, instead of waiting for hindsight to kick in? wouldn't i have enjoyed college even more if i had remembered to be thankful for the gift of four years of nourishment of mind and body? wouldn't i have loved luke's newborn weeks much more if i had remembered to be grateful for his healthy needs and my ability to meet them?
this is my challenge to myself, then, and i invite you to join me, too. what will i one day thank God for about my life right now? i'm going to thank Him for it today instead.