As I prepare to send my only child to college, I am in reflection mode a lot this season. I feel strongly that we should all reflect and renew every now and then, and I’ve been advocating that in recent posts; however, I find that deep reflection often occurs when we don’t force it. Many times, it is the result of something that has occurred—a death in the family, a recent illness, the birth of a child, or a child heading off to school for the first time. Most of these happenings are out of our control somewhat. We can plan, in part, or prepare a little bit for the “what ifs” or the “going to happens,” but we don’t realize the gravity of the situation until it is upon us.
As I think about sending a child to college, I start to think about my own experiences in life. I also think about my own future, and, not in a selfish way, but more in a way that is in tune to what my college-age child will experience or what is in store for her in her very bright future. Many of us, when we change jobs or buy new homes, will look back on the activities and events that we’ve experienced over the years in these places. Even if they weren’t always happy occurrences or even if we associate challenging times in life with these places, they hold a place in our hearts. The job is where we spent many hours of angst and stress, but also where we made good friends and earned a respectable living. It’s where we spent hours of overtime, but also where our co-workers took us to lunch on our birthdays and where we celebrated each Christmas with friends, dancing the night away. Our house may be where we experienced family issues or personal problems, but many times, this is also where our kids were born and where they played in the yard, where we hosted many a cookout, where we answered the door when the kids were little for trick-or-treat, or where we talked to our neighbors in the side yard.
When others in our lives hit milestones, these milestones become our milestones too. When we see the progress that others make or the setbacks they endure, we think of our own, and we find ourselves reflecting on our lives. This is all part of my living strong philosophy. To know yourself and to automatically and routinely take stock of your life at certain points is definitely a show of strength. To bravely face the things you have done in life that don’t make you proud, or to do what you need to do in life to ensure the future that you want are difficult things to do. Tapping into what you have done right or what you are proud of also requires some strength. After all, it is only with intense introspection that we even know what we’ve done is truly successful or makes us deeply proud of ourselves or our accomplishments.
So, as we all take time to sit in the sun this season and think about what we’re going to do or reference those lists that I had you make previously, we need to celebrate our accomplishments and record in our memories the good times and the bad times that have shaped us. As we watch loved ones move away, change pathways in life, or even head off to college, we need to wish them well and feel that we can offer them something in the way of advice and experience. We may not have been exactly where they’re going, but we can certainly empathize and picture a future for all of us that includes continuous improvement, faith, and happiness.