Monday, September 3, 2007

It's Been A Summer

Labor Day traditionally marks the unfortunate (or fortunate if you're a member of the Idaho GOP) end of summer.

Classes on this campus began a week ago, but this weekend surely marks the beginning of the grueling months of fall semester -- months lengthened by a shorter than usual Thanksgiving break.

As I have contemplated what I have and haven't accomplished this summer, I've been more than aware of the lessons I've been taught over the preceding months.

Sure I didn't accomplish as much as I would have liked to on the Stallings Collection (the January 1st opening presently on my mind), but I certainly learned a great deal about Idaho politics this summer. I saw my fair share of other political manuscript collections this summer. For someone so immersed in the process of cataloging a collection, seeing a finished indexing of a collection is a welcome (if not motivating) experience. For those of you who have been following the Stallings project, I would like to personally assure you that the main collection (files from the Washington D.C. congressional office of Stallings as opposed to his district offices) will open as scheduled in January. More than a few people have asked me why it is taking so long...ignoring the health hiccup I had in the Spring, I can say without hesitation that perfection is what is taking so long. I am by no means referring to the bout of perfectionism that has plagued me all my life, but rather the way in which we have chosen to index Congressman Stallings' papers. The collection, once completed, will be an historian's dream.

I am of course biased.

In addition to the lessons I am constantly learning from this project, I learned a great deal from the blunders of our fine first district congressman, Bill Sali, and from the sudden fall from power exhibited by Senator Larry Craig. Hard to imagine those two things happened in one summer, much less one month. The political game is indeed that, a game, a game that requires a great deal of thought and occasionally the courage to call out "checkmate."

On a much more personal level, this summer has opened my eyes to very important life lessons. Some lessons I wish could have bypassed me and a few I find myself learning over and over again. A dear friend of mine passed away this summer, a man who taught me how to truly take care of myself, not just physically, but mentally. His sense of humor even in his last days was something worth admiring. His absence in my daily life is something I miss horribly, though I believe some part of him lives on within me. Perhaps that part of me that worries about whether I've slept enough or if I am fretting over things that in the bigger picture do not matter.

At the beginning of August my brother and I went on a trip to northern Idaho for a friends' wedding. If you want to know what you share in common with a person, get in a car with them for a long trip. In our entire lives I'm not sure we've talked so much. It was a great trip and one that the both of us needed. As I grow older I am learning that he will teach me far more than I will ever be able to teach him.

On that same trip I learned a great deal about families. Family interactions, that is. That is something my friend and I have always shared -- complex families. Coming away from that wedding I only loved this friend more and truly appreciated the different perspectives we bring to this friendship.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of this summer is that you never stop learning from your mistakes. Mistakes are what they are. You live with them, let them go, and move on, but they don't necessarily let go of you. There aren't many things in my life that I regret (that's another thing my late friend taught me--live life without regrets), but there are a few. Those few mistakes have their way of sneaking up on me when I least expect them, challenging me every step of the way, and ultimately reminding me of just how far I've come to be where I am today.

Without question, this summer has been far better than last summer was for me. However, the challenges were different. This summer they were my challenges and not me fighting the battles of others or trying to save the world. Yes, I do that from time to time. Taking care of me has been something I've learned slowly, I'm not even sure I'm there yet (or that a person ever really gets there), but compared to a year ago I am a pro! What's the key to truly taking care of yourself? Let things go that don't deserve holding on to. Sleep through the night. Watch a baseball game every time you get the chance. Call the ones that love you when you need them most. Play the piano whenever you feel like the world is crashing down on you. It's okay to open up. Read a good book. A good book will do wonders.

Important lessons, sweet success, stinging loss. It's been a summer.

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