The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. As a thirty-something year old, returning to college has been an adventure. In moments I’ve risen like a phoenix from the ashes of my fears and former failures. Other times I’ve bitten my lip when I shouldn’t have; hiding behind an agreeable smile while seething inside. I’ve had perfectly planned first impressions go awry and unexpected graces make up for them.
My first day was hazy as I struggled to find my way quickly from class to class. Once in each classroom I felt like an ancient Martian in a sea of people half my age. I was simultaneously afraid and snobbishly aloof. Then the sea of faces transformed when we had to give introductory speeches in my public speaking class. I discovered my fellow students were talented & funny. They, like me were self-conscious and unsure. Some had clear career goals, others were decidedly undecided on their careers. Even in those with clear goals, there was a quality of youth about them that was almost palpable. At first it was hard to put my finger on.
Then I realized it was as simple as a pin I wore in high school. It had read simply “Question everything”. Even those with plans seemed open to questioning. They were willing to consider other viewpoints, not just on a superficial level but on a profound one.
This arose questions within me. Who am I today? What is my essence- not in a wishy washy way; what do I stand for? What values do I hold dear, giving them not only lip-service but practice in the stream of ordinary days and the throes of crisis alike?
At the same time, what stands in the way of me being my best self? When do I feel the pangs of inauthenticity? What are the thoughts and feelings that proceed my self-betrayal? What stories do I tell myself that I hear in the voice other than mine? Whose voices are they? Are the stories true? Do they tell the whole truth?
My answers are evolving like a river slowly winding through the countryside. I’ve come far enough to know not to grow too attached to my answers, or even my questions for they may change tomorrow. One thing is clear, questioning is not only for the young. Perhaps it is the act of questioning that matters more than the content of the questions. Perhaps it is the act of questioning that that keeps us young at heart.
I’m grateful to my fellow travelers in this journey. That once anonymous crowd whose willingness to question everything has created a mist of curiosity through which I walk. Their willingness to be vulnerable has pierced my outer shell, allowing me to grow.