Twelve more days until the end. Class days, that is, and counting today, until I am finished with this long, strange journey that began four and a half years ago. Well, perhaps it began much, much further into the past. I’m not sure the degree I’m earning was even an option, back in August 1995 when I set off to college as a dewy-eyed freshman. I certainly would have wanted it, but the school I attended back then wasn’t my choice, and didn’t have a degree I wanted… but I have no regrets. I have four beautiful children who would not exist if I had not taken that fork in the road.
We start out with the best of intentions, and plans, and we wind up standing here later, clutching our mug of coffee and marveling at the sunrise.
I don’t have the time to stand here drinking in the view for long – and it’s cold outside! – but I did want to ponder on where I am, and where I think I’m going. It’s been a rough couple of months, with transitions. Some of them haven’t been big, or even really visible, but I’ve struggled with them nonetheless. Shuttering a business that I’ve been a driving force in, one way or another, for sixteen years. As I put the boxes containing the physical aspect of that in the basement, I felt like I was abandoning an old friend. Granted, in this house the basement is the warmest room in the whole building due to an inefficient wood furnace, but still. I was boxing up a part of me. Not a part of me I knew existed twenty years ago, when I took the first steps on this journey, but now it was like tearing a chunk of my soul off, knowing that it will regrow even better.
Did I ever tell you about my time as a puppeteer? When I went to college the first time, we were required to participate in a service ministry. There were only a handful of choices, and I can’t sing, and I don’t believe Street Evangelism is effective (rather the opposite, to be very honest), so I picked the Puppet Team. I had no idea, when I ticked that box, what it meant. It was the Geek squad of the school, and it was perfect for me. The leader and his wife were amazing people who I don’t think I ever thanked enough for their mentorship during that confusing period in my life. And the rest of the team? Well, we were the oddballs, the outcasts of the school. It was glorious. I had my first taste of performing, safely behind the curtains of the puppet stage. I don’t know that I was any good at it, but it was a beginning.
Twenty years have passed. I performed for most of them. Sometimes reluctantly, but I enjoyed every minute of making kids smile and laugh. And then I put it all in boxes and taped the lids shut. It’s still there, if I want to pull it out. But the door is closed. If this was an equilibrium reaction I’m being pulled toward the product side of the equation.
I took an exam yesterday, in Biochemistry. It seems every time I turn around, there’s an exam in Biochem. But what struck me about it was how we were discussing glycolysis, the first step in energy production in cells, and ultimately what powers my fingers to tap the keys and produce this sentence for you to read. It’s a process that leads to cycles, but looking at the chemistry of it, it’s a series of reactions. If the whole thing happened at once, it would literally blow your mind with the energy produced like a small bomb going off. Like life. Had I, at 18, been presented with a look at the whole process that lead to my sitting here at this desk typing, I’d probably still be curled up in a corner gibbering. I’d have been utterly convinced I could not handle it. But glycolysis proceeds stepwise, a little at a time, just like life. And just like life, some reactions are reversible, others are not. Some are gateways that swing shut behind the molecule and cannot be reversed, because this way the process will proceed, which it wouldn’t if the poor little glucose could see what was coming.
Enough with anthropomorphizing my chemicals. If I’m going to assume a metaphor, I’m more like an enzyme, catalyzing change but myself remaining unchanged. Physically, at least. Mentally? I’m not the same person who went to college, twenty years ago. That person is changed almost beyond recognition. I look back and shake my head at her, and her naivete.
But then I look forward, and wonder what I’ll say to me, twenty years from now. Am I making a mistake? Too late now, the gateway is closing and the latch is falling. I’m committed to this process.