Sometimes I giggle at what my college career looks like. I overhear people on campus talking about their impossible anatomy finals or how unreasonable their econ teacher is being about what is required of them and I reflect on what is required of me. I’m working on sculpting a marionette head. It’s supposed to be a mobster, so that’s a bit of a challenge.
Yesterday in Voice Production as the class was drawing to a close, the teacher announced that we were going to venture outside to the grassy hill leading down to the lower floors of the library and roll down it. In my mind I thought, “Surely, you jest.” Then I remembered what I’m studying and I realized (with joy) that she was absolutely serious. And I was wearing gray pants, people; my college career demands that I risk life, limb and grass stains for the sake of success.
I say these things as though I take it lightly, but studying what I’m studying brings the stress dagger inherent in this decision-making crossroads of life, closer to the heart than any other area of study ever could. What you are learning to hone and give is not some annexed skill or talent, it is your very soul. Dealing in those terms may not require a lot of time in the testing center or the library, but it is still extremely demanding.
As I rolled down that giant hill, allowing my vocals to escape from me as they may, I glimpsed for a moment the freedom and joy of being young and full of love and passion for living. Once I’d already dirtied those gray pants, there was no reason to hold back, so I rolled down the hill a few more times, breathing in giant gulps of freedom and carelessness as I did. (And rather than trying to ignore the people inside the library taking pictures and pointing through the windows, I added an extra little dizzy stumble and flare for their entertainment.) I’m the queen of prescribing such activities for the mental and spiritual health of the people around me, but I realized as I reached the top of the hill and prepared to move on with my day, that it has been too long since I’ve actually practiced what I preach.
In these articles, I talk and talk and talk about how desperately I want to be freed from my inhibitions and that being able to meet my full potential is everything that I want to accomplish. I save the file, send it off, but how much do I actually turn around and make a concentrated effort to be that person, I’m learning so meticulously to paint on this page? Scholar that I am, I checked out Where the Sidewalk Ends from the library this week for some educational enlightenment. And it has been that — educational and enlightening.
One poem, entitled “Lester,” particularly stood out to me; “Lester was given a magic wish/By the goblin who lives in the banyan tree,/And with his wish he wished for two more wishes—/So now instead of just one wish, he cleverly had three.” It goes on thusly, Lester wishing with each new wish for more wishes until eventually they find him “Dead — with his wishes piled around him./And they counted the lot and found that not/A single one was missing.” I feel at this moment (and felt at that moment covered in dew and grass) like Lester. I’m learning the art of wishing without actually acting on those wishes. I’m a person of great ambition and here I am settling to be just that — ambitious rather than accomplished.
I’ve never gotten further into The Brothers Karamazov than the first book, but just those first few pages lend me some insight into not being a Lester. “…these young men unhappily fail to understand that the sacrifice of life is, in many cases, the easiest of all sacrifices, and that to sacrifice, for instance, five or six years of their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply ten-fold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set before them as their goal — such a sacrifice is utterly beyond the strength of many of them.”
Is such a sacrifice, maybe not tedious study, but at least tenacious discipline in climbing the ladder to my dreams, beyond the strength of me?
Maybe it sounds like I’m shouting from two different camps, praising the art of discipline and yearning for my previous joy in the simple pleasures of life. But I think that they can run together. Both are things that I want to take up a significant and striking portion of my life’s canvas that will one day be the portrait I present to the Lord at the end. And I’ll think of Lester as I do, “in a world of apples and kisses and shoes.”