“Don’t Switch Horses in Mid-Stream.”
-Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 campaign slogan.
I thought that would be an apt introduction, since 2009 is the Lincoln Bicentennial. While I adore the man and myth of Father Abraham like every red-blooded American, that early GOP slogan brings up all sorts of questions.
It’s Wednesday of 9th week, spring quarter of sophomore year. I am, quite literally, halfway done with college. What do I do with my summer? Where did the time go? What am I going to do with my life?
The first two questions have easy answers. This summer, I’m going to see my friend get married, study history in Hawaii, get a job, learn how to interview, write every day, read every day, and run every day. Duh.
The time went by because I wasn’t disciplined. I frittered my time away living like a typical college student – vacillating rather than deciding, sampling rather than eating. While I’m definitely more sedate and bookish than the rest of the college-age population, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted these last two years. I had a list of everything I wanted to get done in college. Half of those things are now impossible, and another eighth are no longer interesting. While some of the detours were pretty awesome, (SPCN) most weren’t (skipping out on DB News freshman year, not playing as much saxophone, not writing every day.)
While I’ve made noises about being “undisciplined” and “wasteful” before, it didn’t hit me until Monday, when I tried to run a mile with Arkae. I finished it – and took an extra lap as well! – but I felt weaksauce. No joke. Weak. Sauce.
I realized that I’ve been playing fast and loose in college – with my body, with my mind, with my time and my talents. That’s going to stop now. While finals are pretty much a done deal (and on the real, I think I have them sewn up) I start living with more restraint and direction this summer in Michigan, Hawaii, and Los Angeles.
Let’s be real – I’m not mentally or physically healthy. I’m lazy, I tend to eat wrong, work too little, sleep too much. I’ve been getting by on the seat of my pants – writing first drafts at 4am the day they’re due, cramming on tests, BSing the book I didn’t read. That needs to stop. I’m not a schoolboy working for the “oh, you’re so smart” and the award. I’m a grown-ass man working on his passions, looking for his vocation, discerning his calling.
In reference to the horse-and-stream metaphor, I’ve been riding a parade-ground horse. It has a lovely coat, glittering saddle and gilded accessories. This was fine, as most of my life has consisted of riding down Colorado Boulevard. While I’ve never been the parental conversation piece many kids are, I grew up with enormous privilege. Having a library card and a Ph.D father in the house are worth as much (if not more) than a nanny and a trust fund. I got by on smarts, without regard to work. Work was easy.
What happens when I enter a job market with a history degree and not much else? Do I have the ability to survive on my own? Can I find work? Can I find meaningful work? Will I be able to get my own bread and roses?
Not if I ride the parade horse. I’ll need a horse that can run distances, that doesn’t need too much upkeep, that’s well-bred, well-trained, and well-disciplined.
So, while I worship the memory of Lincoln, I need to switch horses in the middle of this stream because the one I’m on gets winded awful fast. I’d rather let it go in the middle of the river that is college. I may have to tread water until I can get on the other one, but that’s okay. I’d rather fight with the flow now than ride a tired nag through the brambles of a bad job market or into the desert of middle age.
I’m discipling myself, starting today. Sleeping less, working more, caring for my body. It’s not like I don’t have the resources, or the knowledge – Pathfinders taught me the basics, and UCLA is geared to the active life as much as it is to the life of the mind (if not more.)
Pray for me.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11, Am. KJV