May 11, 2010

I wrote this post a little over a month ago. Just so you know.


So my University has an enormous focus on the identification of vocation. The project is called ‘Wild Hope’, a reference to a ’92 Mary Oliver poem.


The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


It’s a lovely poem, and it’s a noble sentiment, and it’s a great exercise for focusing the energies.  And it looks awesome for the University, of course, which can use the project to market itself as “being a more intellectually rigorous, developmentally astute, theologically rich, and world-informed environment for students, and so a place that better helps them to become the mature, thoughtful, contextually aware, committed, creative leaders the world needs.”

And it actually is.  I’m not doubting that.  My University is generally a wonderful place, with good people, and it has all of those things mentioned in the statement above (which I jacked from the website).  But damn, that’s a lot of pressure for an undergrad, especially if it’s misdirected.

I have a student employee who is feeling it from all sides – the University itself, her major advisor, her roommates, herself.  She feels like she has to take the principles of this project and identify her goals and path RIGHT NOW.  WHAT WILL YOU BE?  TELL ME.  NOW WORK ON IT.  She’s probably, oh, five years younger than I am.

I still don’t know what I want to be. But I still know the kind of person I want to be.


I’ve had a couple of experiences over the past six months or so that have inspired frustration, core-shaking anger, and intense sadness.  And these were experiences for me, a first for a while – something happening to/around/at me, and not to/around/at someone I love.  (Lots of my emotions are by proxy.  That’s how I roll.)

Anyhow.  Sometimes people don’t think or are unkind or selfish, and sometimes they mean it and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes we act out of our immediate desire without considering the long-term effect, or the role we might have played in creating the situation in the first place.  I’m guilty of this, certainly.   We are all only human.  And sometimes we hurt one another, or disappoint one another, intentionally or unintentionally.  And I’m not trying to downplay the things I’ve felt – they’re emotions, they’re valid – but I am trying to clarify that the only thing I get to control is how I respond.

That’s what I get to choose.  I want to be the kind of person who responds to adversity with dignity and grace.  I would like to meet unkindness with kindness, and maintain integrity even when those around me are governed by capriciousness.  It’s hard.  It’s, like FUCKING hard.  But I’m working on it, ’cause that’s the kind of person I want to be.


Next Time

May 11, 2010

Next time what I’d do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I’d stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I’d watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I’d know more — the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.

Mary Oliver