I had an interesting conversation this week.
A young friend of mine, who worked for Danah and I, has been anxiously awaiting leaving for college all summer. And on Tuesday, I texted her to check in and she told me that she was “freaking out and packing too much.”
And hearing what she had to say, and what she’s been saying all summer, brought me back to when I graduated High School and was moving on to the next part of my journey.
I remember I was just like my young friend. I was so excited and so nervous and just couldn’t wait for it to “get here.”
I remember the two days and nights before I left for Boot Camp, and they seemed to last for ages. I had family and friends who wanted to see me, but I was distracted and hardly cared. I wanted nothing to do with my hometown of Knoxville. I was ready to take that next big step. To take the plunge and become an adult.
And as I talked with this young lady, who was also moving out of the state, I told her that she should just live it. Breathe it. Experience it and try to inhale it and embrace it all as much as she could. (After all, you only pack up to move out on your own for the first time just once in your life.)
I know I didn’t live it or breathe it. I was in a hurry, and it started before I turned 17. It really started for me at about 15. I can remember wanting my Driver’s License so bad! And then to be a Senior in High School! And then to graduate! And then I wanted to get to Boot Camp! To get through my School of Infantry training!
I could go on, but you get the point. My other high marks were to get out of the Corps, to get through the wedding (so we could get to our long-planned trip), to get into (and graduated from) college, and to land the job I had trained for so hard.
All of these steps were like mile markers that I rushed and sprinted toward as hard as I could, and as my older readers know, once you get through them, you realize that, well, there’s nothing “there” that wasn’t where you were.
There is no grand party. No cool club. Barely any additional recognition that you thought would land in your lap.
Even worse, often the “there” isn’t what you thought it would be and you find yourself wishing you could just go back.
I know you guys have experienced this, and it’s a depressing thing to have to learn. Unfortunately, the lesson — once learned– proves to be just one step of your education, as well. While it’s an important lesson, it’s not the final one because after you learn to stop rushing through life, you then have to learn to stop looking back — and that’s a challenge that for many of us could last a lifetime.
But I think the lesson that applies to you when you’re young is the same lesson that applies to you as you age. You can’t spend all your time looking back.
You need to live and breathe whatever you’re doing, where-ever you are. Because one thing’s for sure: You’ll only get this moment once, and you’ll certainly wish you had it back someday.
One final thought before I close, I suggested to my young friend that she should buy a journal and write down her thoughts and hopes and fears. I would nearly kill to have a journal from back then. How I talked. What I believed. How optimistic I was. How much I worried about the (in hindsight) silliest of things.
And with that, I’d like to say that Danah and I started journal-ling EVERY day as part of our New Year’s resolution. We’re using a five-year journal called One Line a Day. The super cool part of this journal is two fold: A) You get only a few lines, so it’s not intimidating and easier to just scribble something down even when you’re tired and don’t wan to. And, B) Next year, I’ll be able to see precisely what I was thinking or doing one year ago.
Already, I find myself flipping back to a few months ago and it just kills me that I haven’t been doing this line-a-day journal my entire life. I actually did journal some before this — I started after my divorce, but it wasn’t regular; more like every other week or so, and thus I believe the daily One Line a Day concept is far superior.
So, give serious toward picking up one of Line a Day Journals and think about how valuable it would be to read it years and years from now… And remember, no matter how old or young you are, just live it, breathe it, and experience it all as much as you can. Even if you’re headed into Assisted Living. One day, you may wish you could sit in a wheel chair again, so try not to look back, but enjoy each visit, each meal, each prayer.
Stan R. Mitchell
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
P.S. This book has absolutely changed my life. You should seriously consider buying it. It’s about $20, but is worth about $10,000, in my opinion.