Kurt Vonnegut said something to the effect of “Please notice when you are happy, so you can say to yourself ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”
I am happy. However, I am feeling a sense of urgency, somewhat. I cannot believe it is the second semester of this year. There is so much I want to get in this life. A year in Uganda perhaps, two in El Salvador? Medical school, maybe five or six years working for Doctors Without Borders? Don’t forget that year in Italy to learn to cook, and maybe a family and/or motorcycling from Alaska to Chile?
I know this can be a stressful time for you—second years thinking about the immediate future. First years figuring out living arrangements for next year, juggling jobs and school and trying to find a (funded!) internship. The things we are doing now are in preparation for the coming years. The people we invest in, the jobs we choose, the internships we pick—it all matters a bit more now.
Time has somehow changed from a vague concept of something untouchable and mysterious, to something becoming more formed and planned. Which is good. Sobering, but good. In the best case scenario, I get 79.9 years, the average life span for a woman in the United States. What is worthy of this time? Investing in mind, spirit, or the creative things?
As I look around at you, my lovely classmates, I am amazed at how you will use your time. How much potential, and opportunity, sits in this room? Maybe 40 desks, three or four people per desk. How many teachers, coaches, sisters, pastors, parents, friends gave encouragement? “You will be great, I just know. You can be and do whatever you want to, I just know. You, my dear, will change the world. You must know this one for yourself, I think.”
So all the connections formed, all the pathways, all the investment of time and hope, and the hopes of people you might not even intend to affect are waiting to be used. Even as time is becoming more planned, we still have the freedom of how to apply what we are learning here. There is still freedom—and freedom makes me happy, and possibility, and a continued totipotency throughout life. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
In the best-case scenario, I get 57 more years. How do we use the freedom well, so at the end we have lived with honor? How do we divvy the time and investment, of all the worthy things, of every person that waits, how do we decide which ones are most important and where to direct attentions?