It has been 35 years since I graduated from High School, 31 since college, 26 since seminary, and 20 since graduate school. I enjoyed each of my educational experiences and they have provided me with some essential tools for work but not necessarily for life.
Let me explain.
I know that many educational institutions talk about them being a place where students get “things” for life: those “things” being skills, friendships, and knowledge, etc. I still keep in touch with some of my friends from college – primarily two – one of whom was the best man at my wedding. I have no idea where most of my seminary classmates are and figure at least one half of them left ministry within five years of graduation, (I could be wrong, too). As for grad school? I have intermittent contact with just one person from my program.
Now granted we have Facebook to thank for allowing us the ability to reconnect and before I left Facebook a month ago after a nearly four year involvement, it was great to be reconnecting with people that I had grown up with. But for the most part, my circle of friends, though small, are made up now of people I have gotten to know in the last decade of my life. But I am still grateful for the re-connections that I have made with those from my childhood and adolescent years.
As for academic “take aways?” I have all of my undergrad, seminary, and grad school academic “moments” in three folders. Yet again the nurturing, both intellectual as well as personal, that I received from professors has stayed with me throughout the years.
I hope that I am not coming across as being bitter and resentful because I am not. I am grateful for all who have been a part of my life throughout its 53 years here on earth. But I am learning at this point in life some things that you, Class of 2011, need to know.
1. Forget about trying to live a “balanced” life. Balance is not possible. The word is rhythm. When you get married the rhythm of life changes. When you become a parent the rhythm of life changes. When you graduate, the rhythm of life changes. For me, this is illustrated with two things – the game of golf and playing the piano.
Before my wife and I had children, we played golf together. It was fun. I was in a league. I played often. My handicap was beginning to leave the stratosphere and come down to earth. Then parenthood… I have not played a round of golf since 1998. Why? Financial resources for one. Children require money – lots of money for things like camp, ER rooms visits, and now, for us Driver’s Ed and sports. Another? The resource called time. Children required time to nurture and grow. So you are a parent involved in the classroom during their elementary days; occasionally chaperones during the middle school years; and “stand in the rain in the woods” with a stopwatch during High School cross country meets. Meanwhile, the clubs collect dust and bugs in the garage because the rhythm of life changed at one point. Golf is now for later.
I started taking piano lessons at age 9 and took them for 7 years. I have played in recitals, I have accompanied people in High School instrumental solo competitions, a university’s music class, and for public worship. But I had periods of time when I have not touched the keyboard in adulthood. Now I play weekly because there is only one other keyboardist at the church I serve. Life gets this way too. You train for a skill and use it for a while then it it shelved for what ever reason. Then you pick it up again one day because the circumstances of life require it of you. I see this a lot with retired persons returning to a profession they retired from or using said skill set in another situation when retired.
So forget balance. Yes there is a place for balance in life but rhythm is more important to grasp and master.
2. Life is not just a sprint, nor a walk, nor a marathon… it is all three, sometimes simultaneously.
I am in a season of life called by some ‘the sandwich generation.’ I parenting two teenage boys and it is a sprint at times with the schedule – you sprint from one thing to another. But I am also at a walk with my aging mother. It is at times a painfully slow walk. Then there is my own life segment that has slowed down to a marathon style pace. Just being steady in my commitments and pace.
Life is not lived at full throttle. Some of you will find this out sooner than you think and some of you will find this out in your thirties when you finally realize that most of your classmates and friends have slowed down and live in a different rhythm than you have been keeping. So expect life to be a drive on the Autobahn, followed by a country road traffic jam behind a row of Amish buggies (common sight around here), follow by a measured walk in the woods with your spouse (have not had one of those in a while.)
3. There is a first have of life and there is a second half and the first, while valuable and fun, is prep for the second half which is just as important as the first.
I am just beginning to understand this one. I am looking for guides on this and so this is still unclear to me. Perhaps there are guides who have wrote about it but I have yet to find them. I just know that there is an arc and I am starting down the back side of it. I cannot live on the front side of it forever. In other words, one has to grow up at some point and become a maturer adult. Maybe one day when I am dead you will read some words that I wrote about the second half of life.
I congratulate you on your accomplishments and wish you the best.
These are my Thursday Thoughts.