Class of 2009
Three years ago I crouched in the snow, clutching the icy saw with an already numb right hand. My mom and two sisters stood huddled together, watching expectantly. I bent beneath the bottom branches of the pine and started to work. I had seen this done plenty of times before. The steel teeth tore into the trunk of the evergreen; and as I struggled, the thoughts I had hidden in my heart the past six months raced across my mind. This shouldn’t be my responsibility. It’s not my fault my dad decided to walk out on our family a week after I left home for college. Injustice. Why did that broken bone end my first year of collegiate soccer on the first day of try-outs? Unfair. Isn’t it enough to handle the pressures of college classes and living on my own? These unexpected obstacles, this burden; I don’t want them.
I can’t say that over the next two years life got much easier. College was tough. Balancing two varsity sports (which at times often involved two to three practices a day) and a rigorous academic schedule was both rewarding and difficult. And then there was home. A family crisis that, when added to the challenges of college life, at times left me crippled, feeling completely overwhelmed. Concerns about my mother’s financial future, the emotional brokenness of my sisters, and my own personal pain, abandonment and anger sometimes became consuming. It was also hard to embrace responsibility. That first holiday break spent cutting down and putting up the family Christmas tree was just a glimpse of things to come. I guess I never recognized all of the tasks that would fall on my shoulders when I was the only man around. The reality was, I had been on my share of mission trips and enjoyed the service and self-sacrifice. But this was different. The fact that at the end of the week or end of the month I would not have the opportunity to leave and return to my “normal” life grew me in ways I could never have imagined.
Last week, a student came into the college Writing Center and expressed to me what many others often do. As we sat in the conference room and I scanned over her paper she quickly exclaimed: “Its just so overwhelming! I know there are tons of problems and things to worry about fixing. I don’t know what to do; when I think about it all, I feel more and more stuck.” As I listened I certainly saw her concerns. Her thesis was not restricted, unified, or precise. There were major organizational and structural issues, not to mention paragraph development, syntax, and general grammatical errors. I took a moment before responding. I thought about coming back from injury and in my sophomore year starting the national championship game, about two summers at Smith, Rolfes & Skavdahl and being pulled in multiple different directions by projects from multiple attorneys. I thought about successfully balancing two sports and still doing well academically, about working hard, staying organized and being disciplined. I thought about my family and the maturity and responsibility I gained. I knew just what to say. “We only have thirty minutes together,” I began. “Instead of spending our energy thinking about all of the problems and areas of concern, which can be overwhelming, lets make the most of our time by focusing on a few things I know we can accomplish. I think there is potential for an excellent thesis and a clearer, more effective organization.” She smiled, encouraged.
One upcoming winter weekend this year, as I find myself on the tree farm with my mom and my sisters, I know I will pause before cutting. I know I will think: I am thankful for all of this. As I anticipate Law school and a career as an attorney, I look forward to embracing the responsibility and difficult, unexpected obstacles that will undoubtedly arise. I know the past four years have prepared me for the future.