Tonight I was burning some late-night calories on the treadmill while streaming acoustic tunes through an iPod. My two pups came in to watch (just to ensure I feel extra self-conscious), and I juggled the art of bending down to pet their furry heads while still maintaining some balance and rhythm. As the older and wiser dog stared at me with that sage, sad expression full of puppy tears, I had an epiphany not unlike that of a father who realizes he's spent the bulk of his life absent from his son's baseball games and birthday parties. I suddenly wanted to throw my arms around the dog's neck and say, "Who cares about finishing school anyway? Of course I'll stay home and play fetch with you!" I loved the familiar comfort of my pets wandering our acreage. I loved spring grass the hue of fresh limes appearing in patches around the pine trees. Particularly, I loved the peace and quiet. And the loving hugs of my parents. The truth was... life was happening here at home, and I was missing it. Or this was at least my definite impression. My thoughts wandered to the music playing in my headphones. It echoed my thoughts of what I would have to face the next day. I normally wouldn't expect to find a soul-brother in John Mayer, but as I listened, I was convinced that for this one moment I was sharing a silent commiseration with this melancholy musician:
"I am driving up 85 in the kind of morning
that lasts all afternoon; just stuck inside the gloom
Four more exits to my apartment
But I am tempted to keep the car in drive
and leave it all behind."
These are definitely the musings of a university student, who has been under the academic influence longer than first expected. They say you can't get a decent job anymore without a degree short of a Master's. They also say you aren't guaranteed a job at all, even with a degree. So what was I doing? Was a college education really the answer to an unknown future? That wasn't for me to say. It was only for me to discover- because years back I began the long haul and wasn't about to quit now, much as I wanted to. I was in it to finish, whether it killed me or not.
"I rent a room and I fill the spaces with wood in places
to make it feel like home. But all I feel's alone.
It might be a quarter life crisis, just a stirring in my soul
Either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdict-less life
Am I livin' it right?"
What if the last several years of voluntary confinement had required me to miss what was happening in the lives of those I loved best? Was a classroom environment really where I wanted to spend these hours, day in and day out? It was spring after all- the time when the world wakes from a deep freeze and sets out with renewed conviction. I wanted that renewal- that warm, feverish awakening from the cold routine of academia. It was time to burn the textbooks and shred the papers! It was time to lock away the old scantrons, exams, transcripts, receipts, fliers, scratched-out sheets of poetry... and erase my FASFA password. Forever. I was done with administration, analyses, research, articulation. I wanted to EXPERIENCE. But still one year left!
Then the wise expression of my counselor interrupted the flurry of thoughts. I remembered a little something he was challenging me to do: hope. Not in people, surely. Not even in me. But in the One who gave me an intellect, the opportunity for education, and the ability to positively affect change with the resources given me. What a privilege. He would settle my restless spirit if I released it. And this could only happen if I took a deep breath and stopped feeling like the world was passing me by. Just a day at a time, Bailey. Just one day at a time.
I pushed STOP on my iPod and pulled the plug on the treadmill. Switching off the light switch, I stepped out into the darkness and surveyed the faint stars above. They were glorious. My ears tried to adjust to the quiet expanse, when a dark silhouette dashed playfully ahead of me and trotted back carrying a stick.
... and my heart almost sank into the gravel. Thanks, John. :-)