Anyone who has spoken with me at length in the last, say, month, has had the joy of listening to me rant every now and then at the adventure that is graduate school. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative, sometimes it’s just…ranting. But let’s face it - I’m a generally optimistic, upbeat person, and this whole negative energy thing isn’t working for me. Well, lo and behold, this week I had several occasions to contemplate a bit more.
I managed to escape the SYR this weekend to spend a few days with my sister and brother-in-in law. My sister is my next oldest sibling (as I am the youngest) and as time has passed and we’ve both aged, we’ve come to realize just how similar we are. On the outset, we seem incredibly different - I’m an academic, unfeeling nerd, while she is an emotional music therapist - but we have such similar attitudes and philosophies that spending time together is almost like talking to myself. It doesn’t hurt that we’re nearly the exact same height with fairly similar physical features.
Saturday afternoon, after going for a run together, we stood in the kitchen putting together a quiche and waiting for it to bake. (Sidenote: it was friggin’ delicious.) My sister and I each have a chronic incurable illness, though incidentally not the same (or even remotely similar) illness. We were sharing our thoughts on what that had done, not physically, but emotionally, for both of us, and how our attitudes and perspectives on life had changed. We came away with a conclusion that has shaped the last few years of existence for the both of us: “Live now. Do what you can while you can, and enjoy the gifts you have been given. Life is a gift.”
Granted, this is no massive revelation. However, it’s one that we - okay, I - must constantly harken back to as I proceed through this journey. Enjoy the gifts I have been given…including those that have brought me to this place- to graduate studies, at a new school with a new community.
Then today, at late Mass at the Cathedral, Father gave a most excellent homily. The readings for today reminded us that “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Ps 31:30) That we know not when the Master will come, and yet “We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” (1 Thes 5) And then today’s Gospel reading: the parable from Matthew 25 in which the master gives away his talents to his servants before undertaking a long journey. Upon returning, he wishes to settle their accounts, and rewards those who have invested their talents and been “faithful in small matters”, thus earning the trust of the master to take upon great responsibilities. The servant who buries his talent, for fear of losing it, is harshly reprimanded and thrown out of the master’s house.
Father’s homily centered around the idea of “almost”. Almost giving. Almost clothing the naked. Almost sheltering the homeless. Almost giving our greatest effort. Almost being prepared. Almost living. Why do we stop ourselves and fall victim to the plight of “almost”? Because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the results, fear of what could be - fear.
The combination of these two conversations - one with my sister in her kitchen, one with my God during Mass - brought me to the same conclusion. Give up fear. Live now. Live as though the Master is returning tomorrow - use that which you have been given, to the fullest. Embrace life and all that which is inherent with the journey. For me, this means embracing my current status as a graduate student in a community that isn’t receptive to most of my beliefs. And yet my intellect, my abilities, my dedication and focus - these are gifts. To abuse them is to live in fear. And with that in mind, I turn in for the evening, to face Monday with all the enthusiasm and optimism of one who knows what it means to be blessed.