I feel like it’s time to own up to something. It’s something akin to that feeling I get on Thursday nights when I have a great idea for an essay, but no idea how in the world I’m going to defend it. Usually, at that point I just have a fascinating, yet somewhat outrageous thesis that I picked just because it seemed fun to write about. But here’s the secret: (shhh) I really just make it up as I go.
And that’s how I feel tonight, like there’s a thesis burning on my chest and I haven’t figured out how to articulate it yet.
I had dinner with an old friend a couple nights back. We did a full year catch up summary of our lives. I was astounded by how much has happened in the last twelve months. I went so through much that life 1.5 years ago almost feels unrecognizable.
This year, I stood before an angry crowd and with softly quaking knees, and though I nearly feel backwards in sheer fear, somehow my voice remained loud, steady, and strong. Though I was intensely frightened in a way I had never known, my eyes were sharp and observant, instead of welling up with tears like they should have been. I don’t think the feeling I had in my gut at moment will ever fully leave me.
I’ve had opportunity to freely disregard every principle and virtue that I cling to, and yet I still cling to them. Sometimes I get so tired of fighting it and defending myself. I know everything doesn’t have to be confrontational, but it seems as though there is so much in my face that necessitates a response, especially at Wesleyan. I’ve been in so many situations were if I didn’t say anything, no one would. Then there’s that whole actually trying to effectively communicate with people who aren’t always completely open to my ideas or just, honest to goodness, have no idea where I am coming from.
That leads into another important thing I’ve learned this year, how to pick my fights. Maybe I should be more clear on this point. I’ve started learning how to pick my fights. In music, pianissimo often has a greater effect than forte. The world is loud, which makes quiet stand out and the louds more meaningful. And how you say something (definitely) matters just as much as what you say. Furthermore, always fighting, especially when it includes some loosing, generally leaves one a bit exhausted, and I would hate to become a bitter old woman.
This year, I learned how to pray for who challenge me. I’ve faced no real giants, so I’m not claiming to have triumphed over anything extraordinary. I’m just saying that prayer has become my response to that “oh-my-gosh-I’m-going-to-burst-why-doesn’t-anyone-see-the-flaw-in-that-logic” reaction to something that seems to me to be extraordinarily nonsensical. It’s how I’m able to keep from becoming a bitter old conservative at Wesleyan and actually learn to love the place despite its flaws.
I’ve learned how to recognize nuances and think independently of the people I look up to and admire. It doing so, I’ve learned how to view my own accomplishments, mistakes, and failures a part from what certain people think, and while it means almost nothing to anyone else, knowing that I had the opportunity to sell-out like you would not believe and didn’t, makes me think that I might have the ability to successful in this area later in life too.
I’ve learned how reachable my goals are and committed myself to a defined short-term calling. I’ve been pondering this whole goal-setting thing for awhile. Some things I’ve wanted in life have been unobtainable, like the grade I wanted to get on Comps (epic 4 part, 8 essay, 7 day test) or getting into Yale as an undergraduate. Not meeting these goals hasn’t done anything to to keep my mind from its task as a linear cartographer. I set a path, and I see where I’m going. Now, I’ll veer off that path if necessary, if I think God is leading me in another direction, or if I just fail, but that path gives me something to work toward. To me, it’s like mental push-ups. I hope to always have the courage to call the goals I’ve not met in my life failures, because that’s what they are. But more importantly, I hope that I always have the strength of character to recognize that failure in meeting my trivial goals 1) by no means means my life is totally derailed 2) In no way changes my value as a person. That comes from God and that doesn’t change.
So, with that in mind (failures and all) I’ve been awestruck by realizing how accomplishable certain goals I have for my life are. I had the pleasure of being seated next to Chris Long, CEO of ISI, at dinner last week. We had a great chat, but what was impressed on me the most was that I actually knew the people he was talking about — personally. The world of American conservatism really isn’t unreachable. I don’t know exactly where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing (other than the fact that I am definitely going to law school), but I have some general ideas and realizing that this world that I’ve spend my whole life looking up to really isn’t that far away really means a lot.
My friend at dinner a couple nights ago, pointed out that I am an initiator. Perhaps I should have been aware of that, in fact, I can think of friends who would smile at the obviousness of such a statement. But I had never thought to describe myself as an “initiator.” “Leader”, occasional “risk-taker”, “friend-seeker,” sure, but “initiator”, that’s a new adjective.
I guess initiator implies that I’ll soon be running head first into a fair number of big mistakes in the future, like those that lead me to grow in all the ways I have in the last year. But at least it also implies that if I’m open to something, or maybe more importantly, if I’m open to creating something, good things will come. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.