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.