I should warn you in advance: this is going to be a long one…but I have an awful lot to say. Consider yourself warned 🙂
As many of you know, my full-time job is teaching. This year, I get to spend 80% of my day teaching Paschal Mystery so my days are filled with Scripture readings, deep questions about life after death, various artistic interpretations of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, and other activities of the sort. The other 20% of my day, however, is devoted to something very different: 11th and 12th grade Economics. Yes, my dual degrees in Liberal Arts and Business finally make sense… 7 years after I darted between ceremonies performing a quick change of hoods during Villanova Commencement weekend, it finally all makes sense. 20% of my day is devoted to exploring opportunity cost, calculating marginal utility, charting production possibility curves, etc. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love every minute of it.
|I always knew there was a reason I wanted both…
I just wasn’t sure what it was.
One unique opportunity I have as both the Theology and Economics teacher is that I get to encourage the girls to think about the future in a more comprehensive way. Yes, employment matters. Dream big. Write those business plans for your future B&B or cake pop company, and go for it. If your dream is to make partner in “the Big 4” or to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company, make it happen. These are not at all bad dreams; just remember that ultimately your goal is heaven…so as long as you don’t have to do anything along the path toward your dream to knock that goal offtrack, well then, keep on running!
As I prepped for this new semester, I found an essay I wanted my students to read. Sometime in recent months, I had come across a speech entitled The Opposite of Loneliness, which I read and loved. Within it, I had clicked my way to find an article entitled Even Artichokes Have Doubts. It’s perfect. It has everything I wanted to say to these girls. It talks about how when you survey most freshmen students on a college campus about what they hope to do when that life after college inevitably arrives, very few will offer answers such as financial analyst, broker, or consultant. (Notice: I said few, not zero. I had several classmates who did in fact arrive oncampus with such aspirations in August 2004. Like I said, if that’s your dream, go for it!). Yet, by senior year, nearly 25% of grads end up in such positions. Why? Because it’s easy; because it’s practical; because it makes money and fits the standard American definition of success. I shudder to think of the movies we’ll never see, the books which will remain unwritten, the restaurants which will remain elusive dreams, simply because it’s too impractical to reach for a dream. However, I digress.
The point is I’ve been on an essay kick recently, ever since a friend gave me a collection of essays for Christmas this year. Additionally, I recently learned how to borrow ebooks from the library onto my school iPad, since I have yet to purchase an e-reader. Two weeks ago I borrowed the book of essays written by the dazzling young author who penned the essays mentioned above. For 2 weeks that book has been sitting in my digital library until today when I happened to have a 20-minute window of time between teaching the high schoolers and teaching my night class (remember them, my construction men??). I swiped my way to an essay, started to read, and I was literally stopped in my tracks. I actually had to take a seat, recover my breath, and even reach for a tissue as I read, all the while thinking, “These words could be coming out of my mouth”. In fact, I actually said the last line of the essay word-for-word just the other night when talking to a friend. Before you go any further, please just click and read: Against the Grain
It’s perfect. She understands it all: the separate colander; the supposed trendiness of the lifestyle we certainly didn’t choose, even the tears of concern shed over a theoretical future child who may or may not ever exist…I have found my kindred spirit. I want to pick up the phone and call her to say thank you for making me feel less alone. I want to take a train to New York and visit her office and go out for a gluten-free lunch where we both grill the waiter before ordering a meal. I want to collaborate with her on a book about celiac which will be lighthearted and yet so profoundly honest that we will reach through the haze of confusion which seems to surround our condition and touch people’s hearts. However, I can do none of those things. Marina Keegan, the dazzling author who penned these heartwrenchingly honest and beautiful pieces of prose, died in a car accident in 2012, just days after her graduation from Yale. I knew this about her before I stumbled across this essay today, and it added to the emotional experience of reading it.
|Go to Amazon. It’s well worth a read|
Now, I want to stop and acknowledge what many of you are probably thinking. Yes, I know this seems cruelly similar to the heartwrenching experience of the Nationwide commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl; no, that was not my intention. However, today was the second time in under a week when I’ve found myself stricken with grief over the loss of someone I never even knew. Today as I read Marina’s essays, and last week as I watched friends mourn the loss of someone taken far too soon, and far too suddenly, something occurred to me. We try to control so many things. Sometimes it’s by choice, other times it’s by necessity. Particularly in the world of food allergies and/or autoimmune conditions, it feels like we have to control everything and yet other times it feels like despite our best efforts, our body, our immune system, or our life are still spiralling out of control. The reality is that we can only control so much. No one likes to talk about it, and certainly no one wants to admit it…because it’s just too terrifying.
So what can we do about to make that reality less terrifying? That I don’t know. What I do know is that we can control certain aspects of our lives. We can wash dishes with separate sponges and use brand-new toasters. We can scrutinize every label, annoy every chef we encounter, and fill up our phones’ “favorites” list with manufacturers’ hotlines. We can pack ice cream cones, plant appropriate Halloween candy when need be, and swear ourselves to nothing but rice when everything else seems treacherous. We can do everything in our power to ensure that every precious second is beautiful, healthy, and full of life. And we should. But in the end, the one thing which should drive all of our decisions, actions, plans, and dreams is very simple: love. Do what you love, spend time with the people you love, and above all, be the person you love.
Tonight, I toast Marina with an ice-cold Angry Orchard and a Katie-safe chocolate-covered cherry. I say a prayer of thanksgiving for her time here among us, and I offer several others for her parents, siblings, and the dutiful gluten-conscious boyfriend who loved her so deeply. I pray in thanksgiving for the life of a man I never knew who left this world last week, and for the wife and unborn daughter who are left to carry on his legacy. And lastly, I pray for each and every one of you. May you follow your heart, learn to relinquish control, and most of all, may you live everyday to the fullest and as Marina said, “be in love with everything…because everything is so beautiful and so short”.
|Courtesy of pinterest|