Last night, with the adventures of homecoming safely a week behind me, I found myself reminiscing about my own high school homecoming week. It was quite easy to slip into romanticizing that time in my life because there is no risk that I will be caused to repeat it again. My memories centered on the competition of the week, the class rivalries that emerged in full force, the class skits performed in which each teacher was fair game, and the exhilaration that filled the entire school for one precious week. Throughout the week we would have games each day and the competition was fierce. Seniors almost always won but it was the goal of each grade to produce an upset, one in which only obnoxious cheating would result in the triumph of the seniors. My junior year was probably the most competitive. The skits were hilarious and all of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) teachers were impersonated and analyzed. (Note: As a teacher now, this is always a fear of mine when the students are given the chance to make fun of the teachers. I sit in the gym, waiting anxiously, hoping that I wasn’t memorable enough or disliked enough to become the focus of students’ laughter.) My junior year we won the “Olympics” and the triumph was palpable. We gathered in our class sections in the gym bleachers and would chant our anthems. “J-U-N I-O-R…Junior, Junior, Junior!!!” “0-8 0-8 0008” The shouting echoed off the walls of the gym. That memory is one of my favorites–the class anthems, the school spirit, the energy, the competition.
I can almost trick myself into believing that that experience was high school. It was not. High school wasn’t traumatizing for me, but it wasn’t the best experience of my life. I liked school and I was involved in numerous activities: choir, band, volleyball, track statistician, plays, oral interp, and TATU to name some. It was a great time of development…but it wasn’t perfect.
That is one of my problems. I am excellent at romanticizing the past and thinking of it in the best ways. This doesn’t hold true for everything but for many things it does. I think back (way back!) to college and I am able to make it free from any trials or difficulties. I think, “Trish, do you remember that time that your job was to read theology books and write papers? When you hung out with friends several times each week? When you felt like you were changing the world by being in the pro-life movement? Remember when you went to New Mexico and twice to Honduras for mission trips? Remember traveling around Europe? Wasn’t that the absolute best time of your life?” And looking at all of those adventures and blessings, I am convinced that I should be there and not here. What is very easy to overlook is the fatigue, the stress of completing two theses in one semester (even if that was my fault entirely), trying to finish the endless stream of homework, wanting to hang out with friends but not being able to, worrying that we wouldn’t fundraise enough for the mission trips, the excessive tiredness. All of that is easy to forget in the quest to make college “the best years of my life.”
The point is this: the past is easy to love because we don’t face its challenges in the present. Of course there are difficulties in my present life but those are more keenly felt because they are the present. In high school I was left with this feeling that nobody understood me. The friendships I had weren’t rooted in Christ and therefore often seemed shallow. In college I had the blessing of making those friendships and seeing how quickly they blossomed simply because we were rooted in the same soil. Now I am able to see the beauty of those friendships even though I don’t find myself immediately surrounded by them anymore. Instead I see from afar those friends continue to grow and impact the world. They are getting married, they are having babies, they are continuing on with their lives. As for myself, I am growing and changing, even if at a slower pace than I would like. The past was necessary to make me who I am today, but now I need to live in today. I need to live in today with all of its trials and difficulties–with the sophomores that won’t listen to me, with the seniors that are quick to roll their eyes at my statements, with the other teachers that don’t quite know how to take me, with the desire to live out my vocation yet being caught in a seemingly indefinite waiting place.
Perhaps instead of gazing jealously at the past, I should look with anticipation to the future. Imagine Heaven. All of the beautiful people I know, all of the gorgeous places I’ve seen, and all of the lovely experiences I’ve been blessed with, all rolled into one and magnified greatly–this is Heaven. When I focus on that goal, the end prize, the eternal life with God in Heaven, then the pains and irritations of today seem to pale in significance.
“The Glory of the Lord, therefore, is the super eminently luminous beauty of divinity beyond all experience and all descriptions, all categories, a beauty before which all earthly splendors, marvelous as they are, pale into insignificance.” The Evidential Power of Beauty