I’m looking back to a moment, sometime in the spring of 1970, when you considering a decision to switch majors. You were discouraged by chemistry, and how many courses lay ahead for a pre-med major. And you knew that you heart wasn’t in pre-med; instead, your father’s heart was in pre-med, because he had wanted to be a doctor. And you were toying with two ideas simultaneously – the ministry and journalism.
You made the right decision. You didn’t know it then, and you disappointed your father by abandoning pre-med, but you made the right decision. You were not cut out to be a minister. And truth be told, you weren’t cut out to be a journalist, either. But journalism was the closest thing you were cut out for, because of the way you thought and the way you would be trained to think.
You could have been a poet, too, but you would have starved to death.
Be encouraged: you will reach the seventh decade of your life and not regret a single decision about your marriage, your work, your children, and your faith. You will look back and say I would change nothing about any of these major decisions, even if I could.
You will find disappointments, frustrations, and often – perhaps usually – tremendous stress. You will find anger and hurt. You will experience unhappiness and grief. But you will have no regrets.
You will learn to understand that life does have meaning, and that includes your life. And everything happens for a reason and a purpose.
You will discover that you will come to love your wife even more than you did when you married her.
You will find joy in your two sons (and it shouldn’t be a surprise that you will have only sons, because that’s all your family ever has). You will find joy in your grandsons (you see what I mean about our family and sons).
You will take extreme career risks. You will challenge status quo thinking, often fearlessly, and sometimes you will frighten and threaten others who believe in and own the status quo. You will pay a career price for that, but you will change things.
The dream you had in your 20s – you know which one I’m talking about – will become real in your 50s. You will come to writing fiction and poetry late, but you will come. And you won’t get rich, but you will write. You will understand that the image of God that is in each of us is first the image of the creator.
Not long before you retire, you will find poetry at work, in the most surprising ways and places. Seeing work as a kind of poetry will allow you to look at the everyday and see it in a new way. You will find the poetry late, but when you look back, you will see it is the poetry at work that has always led you to challenge the status quo.
I would tell you not to sweat some of the things you will worry about, and sometimes obsess over, but those things, too, will become part of who you are, the decisions you make, the opinions you hold, the stories you write. Life is a whole, and all things in a life make it a whole. Your stories are about the pieces, but they all come from the whole.
That is what your life will ultimately be about: the whole. And you will want to be remembered for the whole.
The High Calling is hosting a community linkup this week on Writing a Letter to Your Younger Self. For details (and the deadline), please visit The High Calling.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.