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.

1 comment:

Leslie Ruth Petree said...

"...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?"

This especially resonates with where I am in life right now. Thanks for heeding the nudge, for writing, for sharing. I needed this :)