My mother came to visit me in early spring, nearly two years after I was married, just a few months before I finished my last college classes. In the previous four years, I had only scraped by three years’ worth of credits. I knew that the end of my classes would not bring a walk across the stage or a diploma to hang on the wall for me. But I also knew, deep in my heart, that it was the right time. It was time for me to be done with school for the present; to focus my energy on taking care of myself and keeping things running smoothly at home. I had learned that it was possible for me to go to school part-time—but when I did, I found I couldn’t do anything else. Keeping one or two classes each semester was a grueling effort for me, demanding all of my time, attention, and energy, and leaving absolutely nothing left of me when I was finished.
It had been a difficult decision to make, but the raw grief that I had felt two years before, when I first realized that graduation might not be in the cards for me, had mostly dissipated. I was tired now, worn down by the endless barrage of health problems and the pressure to keep up with what should have been a light load. I was ready to be done, ready to have the energy to explore other parts of myself again.
That week, as my mother and I sat together at my kitchen table, she asked me if I felt like I had had a “good college experience.”
The question took me by surprise. I had certainly not had a typical college experience; after my first few semesters, I’d had to pull more and more away from the rigor of the academic environment I loved. By necessity, I’d had to learn to find my own identity in something other than the world of scholarship. I’d spent the past two years discovering how much there was to love in my newfound role as a homemaker; I’d learned to take satisfaction in keeping a house of order, and to approach a new recipe with the same zeal I’d previously felt for literary criticism.
I sat at the table, the silver afternoon light of late March diffusing through the windows, and thought about it.
“Yes,” I said finally. “I have.”
Then I added that focus of the last two years had certainly not been a quintessential college experience, but that they had still been good. Very good, in fact.
“I feel… fulfilled,” I said, realizing as I said it that it was true.
Somehow, in the slow passing of days and weeks and years, fulfillment had crept into my heart. I realized, sitting there at the kitchen table, that I was content—that even though the path my life had taken was so different than the one I had expected, I was still happy. My days felt full of beauty; I had learned that even something as simple as loading the dishwasher could feel meditative, fulfilling, if I only opened my eyes.
So yes, I thought. Typical or not, my college experience has been a good one.
. . . . .
It’s been more than two years since that conversation with my mom. Like everyone, my life is filled with ups and downs, and I still have far too many moments of doubt and insecurity. And yet, the contentment remains. The fulfillment remains. I have come to love this life I’m living, even if it’s not the one I had planned for myself. It’s a continual process, a journey of discovery and delight.
And when I look back on it, even with all the bumps, I can’t deny:
I’m glad to have had the ride.