Well friends, this is the end.
How cliche, right? Every year there are countless college columnists who extend their final goodbyes to their readers with messages trying to pull at your heartstrings.
Maybe I’m no different, but I want to share with you a lesson that I’m getting a heavy dose of right now.
Life is scary, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from it.
There’s a lot of things that are ending for me right now; some small, some incomprehensible. My column is ending, my undergraduate career at St. Thomas is ending and, most painfully, my sister’s life is ending. I’ve written a few times about her battle with cancer, and recently we learned her fight was terminal.
At first, I couldn’t believe this was happening, and in many ways, I have not fully accepted what this ugly reality means. Laura, my only sibling, has been a fighter for almost four years now, and to see our options run dry is gut-wrenching. So when all other lights go out, stick to the one that remains: positivity.
This year, I have come to the greatest realization in my life, and the struggle to accept it is very real. The realization is that I cannot control the things going on around me. The only thing I can control are my actions.
I’m a guy who loves to have everything hashed out and neatly controlled. I love my schedules, and I love getting my way. But that’s a big problem, and I’m just sick of living in a box of expectations.
In big examples and small ones, I have really truly struggled with letting life happen, and I’ve come to a fork in the road that will most certainly decide my future. The two options are to embrace every minute with positivity or to sulk in the shadows of “what if’s.”
I’ve made a lot of stupid decisions through this undergraduate career on the sole basis that I was not confident enough to just let things play out. I’ve jumped the gun so many times trying to edge out how life really works, and every time it knocks me on my ass. I’m not perfect, and I continue to make mistakes, but I am learning … and progress is a good thing.
During J-Term, a friend of mine lent me the book “The Tao of Pooh,” from which I’ve been learning some of the central ideas of Taoism from the example of Winnie the Pooh. It’s funny to be a 22-year-old dude living vicariously through the little fluffy bear from the Hundred Acre Woods, but here’s an idea that Pooh has given me:
“‘What day is it?’ asked Pooh. ‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet. ‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.”
So simple, and yet so perfect.
I wish that I had all the answers. I wish I knew how things will play out and what to expect, but I don’t.
The only thing I know is I’m sitting in the library on the Sunday before finals week. I know that it’s a beautiful day outside and that I have a nice cup of coffee beside me. That’s enough for now.
Accepting those steps into the unknown is hard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. So if this is going to be the end of something, it’s going to be the end of my previous mindset. That, I can most certainly leave behind.
I’ll be moving forward, confidently and in the present, and that’s all I’ve got for now.
Alex Goering can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author’s Note: I want to thank everyone who has continued to follow my writing over my TommieMedia career. It has been an honor and privilege to help generate meaningful conversation for this community. I started here as a shy, mousy freshman, and with your support I have become so much more.