What Time Takes. What Time Gives.

WALKING ON campus this morning, I realized that this week is a bit of an anniversary for me: twenty-five years ago I began my undergraduate program on this very campus. I was seventeen years old. Just a child.

Today I see that there are piles of rubble being created by the wrecking machines whirring and roaring along where now only a portion of my old dormitory remains. The piles are being sorted out as if to make sense of it all; chunks of concrete here, twisted steel there, things defying categorization over there. I think to myself that I once worked and played, studied and slept, laughed and cried within the walls now crumbled before me. Within the rubble is a part of me, and within myself is a part of the rubble. I do not force the issue, I do not bother to ask if somehow this could make for an apt metaphor; you know, the idea of rubble, and time, and trying to organize it all into proper stacks and piles as if it may still be put to use. Nor do I bother to ask myself why a tear flows over my eyelid, and rests at the top of my cheek.

Yesterday in class I was reminded once again of what time and age can take from you. The students in their twenties have such endless bodily stamina, and a remarkably quick recall of material. I can sense in my own mind a sluggishness, as if there are several layers of translation I must perform in order to answer a professor’s query. The young recall information as if by sheer reaction—unhindered electrical impulses traveling somewhere near the speed of light across a few centimeters of grey matter. I on the other hand must process, correlate, shuffle and sort, summon and will, to remember a name or date or quote. Sometimes in all my effort I am met with nothing, nothing but the apprehension of what more the quickly coming years will take from me.

But time and age give to you as well, and their costs are not so high once you adapt to them, accept them for what they are. Reading and recalling wise words is not the same thing as becoming wise. Stamina fails to teach you where and how to most meaningfully spend your hours. And the freedom of youth exists because you have not yet made yourself a servant to those who love and need you most, and those whom you love and need the most. With age you learn that things are only temporary—our accomplishments most of all. You learn that rubble unavoidably comes with life, and yet can become life. You learn that rubble is okay, that it is about give and take, about falling down and about being made new, about compassion and grace—about loving and being loved. You learn that the mystery of all these things is flooding through and making beautiful this very day, this very moment. And you learn that this is enough.

THE NEW dormitory across the way, with its earth tones glowing softly in the morning sun, looks far more attractive and fun than its predecessor. I smile with a solemn joy at the site of it, and for all its young residents I make a wish that each may find all the most wonderful, most beautiful things in life; things that as yet they cannot possibly comprehend nor imagine. I wish for them rubble, and I wish for them rebirth. Both are painful. Both are joyous. The two are inseparable.

As for me, I feel as though I am standing in this moment straddling time itself—and the moment feels flawlessly true.

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