"Time passes in moments ... moments which, rushing past define the path of a life just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen, to consider whether the path we take in life is our own making or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed. But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And, seeing those choices, choose another path?"
Today I turned twenty-three. Today was the end of something, not just a year of my life, but the end of a semester that was, at times, as trying as any other major obstacle I have encountered in my mere twenty-three years. I wonder if one day I'll be sitting in an office somewhere, surrounded by books, thinking back over how I got there. I wonder if I'll see these last few months and see that they were a catalyst of sorts. I wonder if years down the road I will look back at these past weeks and appreciate the many tears, the many sleepless nights, and the moments of complete uncertainty.
Every major academic decision I have made while being in college has been enormously heavy. I was sitting on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial when I decided I needed Kent State, maybe more than Kent State needed me. I was sitting in a dark stairwell using an old, beat up pay phone when I decided that I needed to be in a program more suited for me, a program closer to home. I walked into an English teacher's office at Idaho State one afternoon and asked her point-blank if she knew from day one where her education was leading. The next day I was sitting in a room preparing to take the Praxis exam to begin the Special Education program at ISU when I decided I didn't want to be in that field for the rest of my life, got up, and walked out. And then I became a history major.
Looking back at that moment, wondering why all things happen, I know without a doubt that becoming a history major is what changed me. I was excited again, truly happy to be a student. What I didn't know then was that I would go on to meet some of the most amazingly talented historians Idaho has to offer. What I didn't know then was that I would find my mentor and she would have an immeasurable impact on my life. And I never could have known what a blessing and opportunity the Stallings Collection would be. I will forever be in Mr. Stallings' debt.
This time around, this new academic move, was provoked only by my own frustration with ISU and my overall belief that it is time to move on. There was no sudden realization, no memorial steps to sit on while reflecting on my life. There was one moment when I decided I was at the end of the road. I made the decision to stop pursuing a graduate degree at ISU in about the same amount of time it takes me to pick out my socks in the morning. I emailed my mentor, told her I was done, and was pleasantly surprised by her immediate enthusiasm for and agreement with this decision.
On my last birthday, I was so relieved to have survived the year, twenty-one was not at all kind to me as I faced a serious health-crisis, that I didn't reflect on where I was going or how I got there. This birthday was different.
Today I was reminded by the people who I care about most of who I am and just how much I have accomplished to be where I am in my life. I was reminded by a former history teacher that the people who save you in your darkest times will share with you the brightest times and will love you for you no matter where you go. I realized how important it is to me to have friends who have known me at various stages of my life, friends who know what silence from me means just as much as they know that when I say I'm fine, I'm really not. And then there are the messages that have come not by way of reminder, but as new and welcome offers of friendship, faith, and trust. That kind of friendship, the kind that offers faith and trust, is the most meaningful and the greatest gift of all.
Of every path I've ever traversed, I have had a companion in the battle, a brother, who I love with everything in me and who doesn't allow me to "drift" very far with my eyes closed. There are few decisions I have made in the past fifteen years that have not involved this young man. He is my best friend, he is my rock, and he makes me laugh so hard my sides ache for days. He, most of all, was the person I worried about when I made the decision to leave ISU as soon as possible. His opinion mattered most. Above my academic advisor, my mentor, and my friend. His opinion always matters most.
How often do we stop to ask ourselves whether the paths we choose will harm those around us? Not nearly enough. Our choices matter. Every word we utter, every moment we let pass. Each matters. Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned in this past year is exactly that, our choices matter.
(Quotation attributed to The X-Files and the writing of Gillian Anderson in episode 7.17, "All Things.")