Recently, I’ve been turning a question over in my mind—one that is as hard to answer as it is important to consider: who do I want to be? I’ve learned, over the last few years most especially, not to grow too attached to who I consider myself to be in the present. It’s too liable to change, as I find myself discovering passions, interests and curiosities every day. But I also recognize that what I do today shapes who I am tomorrow. A quote I heard a long time ago speaks to this, in slightly jarring terms: “Every decision you make… turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that… Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become” (Chris Hadfield).
This is pretty daunting, right? It doesn’t explicitly allow for mistakes and shortcomings on one’s path towards their ultimate self, obstacles that I believe are foundational to growth. But regardless of this, I find the sentiment inspiring. In choosing how I want to live on a day-to-day basis, I have found it helpful to center myself around an animating purpose. As part of the Freshman retreat here at Prep, Frosh students are told (at least once) that they are “the light of the world”. I find this to be such a concise (and yet quite flexible) compliment—but more than this, it is a mandate. The students are reminded, perhaps for the first time, of their intrinsic capacity for goodness. But this statement is also, in some ways, a commandment. I imagine that the rest of the line might go something like this: you are the light of the world, and do not try to avoid, deny or otherwise obscure it. The world needs it.
So, this has become my aforementioned animating purpose. I’m working to bring out the light in myself, and aiming to bring out the light in others, too. But what about those mistakes and shortcomings? What about the days when my light feels dim? I had one of these days not too long ago. I just felt beaten down by the weight of life. I was tired, stressed, anxious and fragile, and I didn’t know what to do.
I had forgotten, momentarily, that the wonderful people in my life have a knack for making me feel better in times like these. My fellow ASCs affirmed, comforted and uplifted me (and they did the dishes I had been meaning to do). My colleagues and students at Prep gave me endless support, encouragement and grace. My family and friends sent me sweet messages, song recommendations, and love from far and wide, without even knowing I needed it. Light has a funny way of traveling between me and the world when I need it most. It remains true that decisions inform the way that our lives pan out, for better or for worse. But by sharing our light, and by allowing ourselves to accept light from others in the form of love and understanding, we continually ensure that we will not be simply “kicked into” being who we do not want to be. I’m so grateful to be in a community that nurtures my light—both today, and as I move forward towards the rest of my life.