"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

19 April 2005


To A., whom I will miss greatly but rejoice with her rejoicing

I’ve read the phrase “like a weight lifted from one’s shoulders” in numerous novels and essays. I had a vague picture in my mind of what it might look like, but I’d never seen it actually happen until this past week.

A student came to my office with a dilemma. Should she stay here for her junior year, with all the expense of a private school, and transfer back home for her senior year, with greater likelihood to lose more credits, after getting married? Or should she go back home now, missing out on friendships and opportunities she was excited about, but being with her fiancé and having fewer money and transfer problems?

As we talked, she sat leaning forward in the chair, shoulders tight even as they slumped, eyes clouded with doubt and frustration, hands nervously picking at each other and her clothes. Burdened she clearly was.

I made the time-honored suggestion of lists – they don’t make up your mind for you, but they can help clarify your thinking, help you realize just what it is you really want. She agreed that might help, but it seemed something deeper was troubling her.

So I asked her why she felt the need to finish a degree at all. It became clear that she felt no such need – only pressure from a culture that says you are worthless if you don’t have that piece of paper, fear that she might disappoint those who had invested in her life here at the college. While the knowledge and experience she had gained in these two years would be invaluable to her as a wife, mom, and writer, she had no further need for that formalized instruction. She wanted to go to L’Abri, learn more about homemaking skills, start paying off some of the debt she’d already accumulated, work on her writing, prepare for marriage.

At some point, I said, “So why don’t you just do what you really want to and forget about this school thing?”

As my words sank in, she sat up straight, said “Can I really do that?”, then suddenly sat back as all the tension fell away from her. She let her arms relax over the chair arms, crossed her legs, and looked at me with eyes clear, joyful, confident. “I could really do that.” She literally looked as though a weight had lifted from her shoulders, and she will always be my picture now when I read those words.

Sometimes we just need permission to do what we already know is the best thing. When the weight of others’ expectations is gone, we can see so much more clearly in the freedom of a relaxed mind and spirit.


amelia ruth said...

Thank you so much. It is beautiful and so very true. While questions and doubts still linger occasionally, there is nothing quite like the burden of expectation being removed.

And thank you for your counsel. You are so wise and I aspire to be just like you in many ways.

Cindy said...

It's always frustrated and fascinated me that God's wisdom is foolishness to man. For those of us who have a lifetime love affair with words, language and meaning, the academic route seems the only one, and is certainly almost the only place where we'll be consistently among like-minded people who love thinking and reading as much as we do. It feels like a failure to not meet the academic expectations of our families and/or friends and/or professors and/or mentors and most especially, of ourselves. That diagnosis of failure, though, is man's wisdom. God calls us to greener meadows, more open skies, places where we can shake out our feathers and spread our wings, where we can do what we were created to do---fly, build our own nests, try a few bugs for variety along with those familiar worms. (The metaphor disintegrates, but you get my meaning.) :)

Oh, there's a whole soapbox underneath my feet just begging to be used! I shall restrain myself. :::amid great effort to shut up, now:::

And, just for the record? About L'Abri? I'm jealous. :)

amelia ruth said...

and by the way, I never did think to see a post titled "weightlifting" on any blog of yours! I'm impressed!

alaiyo said...

Amy, you are welcome. It is humbling to me for you to say you wish to be like me. I see all the stumbling, sinful, foolishness . . . I shall try to listen to Him all the better for your sake!

As for weightlifting, hey, if you aren't going to do, you may as well talk! :-)

LuCindy, please, please, don't stop! I want to hear more of your soapbox! I love the way you have said this -- Amy, spread your wings! I'm jealous about L'Abri, too -- ah, to be single and still almost fancy-free!

trepuah said...

"...God's wisdom is foolishness to man." That is so true! The story of student A reminds me of many instances in life where the simplest and most peace-bringing answer is the exact opposite of what society/culture/the world suggests.

I am writing today after a long break. My mind has been automatic, mush-filled, lost in the daily grind. I realized after reading the inspiring posts that I've not asked my mind to be engaged or active in much of anything lately.

It was great seeing you yesterday, alaiyo. :) Hopefully it won' be such a long span of time before the next visit.

alaiyo said...

It was great seeing you, too, "trepuah"! It's been much too long, for as close as we live to each other!

It will take a very long time for your mind to turn to mush, dearie. But writing keeps us in tune with what's going on inside us in a way mere thought never can. Hope you will share some of yours!

Blessings on you!