Saturday, June 04, 2011

In which Kami gets Long-Winded

Stress.

Not mine, at least not directly. The girl is experiencing unprecedented levels of pressure, and it's starting to really get to her. Luckily she's got a nice weekend ahead of her with nothing more to do than pick out which book she'd like to read in the shade under our trees.

I only vaguely remember that kind of pressure. It's not a success thing, at least not in the usual way I think of success. When you've been living under the protection of adults all your life, it's hard to trust that you've got what it takes to make it on your own. Add to that the sense of permanence to those early decisions ...

I decided that I wanted to be an engineer like my father. I didn't do very well in college in that first year. Better than some, in that I didn't completely flunk out, but my grades reflected my complete lack of preparation for attending a university full time.

It was the end of the world, or so I thought. I bore up well on the exterior (I think) but deep down I felt like opportunity had come knocking and I'd opened the door and accidentally shot it dead.

The girl is trying to decide whether to work, where to work, how to focus her learning and efforts, how to do the college thing both financially and also mentally/emotionally, and I know she feels like whatever she decides in the next couple of months will either make or break her.

Well, yes and no ....

Because all of us who've been there know that things like college and first jobs and where we choose to live when we first set out on our own is just a beginning. That beginning could be really short and actually not affect the rest of your life at all.

My father died. I married and had children. I started writing. I took more college courses, toyed with finishing my degree or maybe starting a new one ... and that life-and-death freshman year in college turned out to just be a brief testing ground. I learned important stuff about myself, but in the grand scheme of things, I doubt that completely flunking out would have broken me. Completing school and getting an engineering degree didn't guarantee success either. I'd have a different life ... but better? Worse? It think that would have depended on me more than what I achieved, if that makes sense. I think that one way or another, wherever I ended up, I'd be happy only if I figured out how to be happy, and I'd be miserable no matter how cushy a job I landed with my fancy degree if I never learned how to cope with failure, and cope with partial successes, and appreciate what I've got no matter how things are going.

That's a really long-winded way of saying, basically, that I think that no matter what the girl decides, she'll be all right. Even if she's not, it may not have so much to do with being stuck with what she decides as being in a particular place at a particular time with a particular skill set. I wish I could help her understand that it's okay, and that sometimes mistakes aren't mistakes, and sometimes the right choice turns out really crummy, and we just have to adapt. Stuff happens. Part of growing up is learning how to take that failure or success or weird switcheroo and make it work out for you, or at least laugh and move on and keep being happy.

As long as there's life, there's hope. Not hope for a happily-ever-after. Just hope. Hope that there's going to be a good day, or hour, or minute ahead, or if not, hope that we can at least say it was all worth it.

Good luck, my children. It's a big world full of lots of things, and I hope you can shake off the stress long enough to appreciate how much of a privilege it is to try, and choose, and be.

1 comment:

Joshkie said...

Well said, struggle and adversity are just life's opportunities to learn and grow.

:-)
Josh