There are few greater privileges than knowing someone for your whole life. I went to a small elementary school (and nursery school, and junior high, and high school) almost entirely populated by children whose parents were all coworkers. Most of our parents worked where they worked just so their children could have a good education. Well, we got a good education, and had the added joy of watching each other grow up.
The two that come to mind tonight were born the same month that I was. One was born 20 days before me, the other ten days before. We had adjacent cradles in nursery, sat next to each other in classes, and even ended up in the same German class in high school.
College blew us in different directions. We three ended up at the same university, but spent most of our times in different corners of campus. One lived in the speech wing of the Fine Arts building and in the many theaters on campus, honing his acting skills. Another lived in performance halls and practice studios, becoming an accomplished clarinetist. I lived in the library, various theaters, and wherever I could hide so I could write things without interruption.
Needless to say, we haven’t really kept in touch over the last four years.
The performance majors require final recitals. For one of these two, that meant a final acting performance—in his case, the most memorable role in a stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch. His performance was nothing short of masterful. It brought tears to my eyes—not just because he performed so well, but because I could easily remember him as a little boy, as a teenager, and remember all the things he struggled with and overcame. I was unbelievably proud of him.
My other friend’s recital was today. She took up clarinet at the age of ten and quickly established herself as a competent player. She excelled through high school, and excelled still more in college. Her recital was a thing of beauty. I didn’t know a clarinet could be expressive until I saw her play. She made it look easy. I knew it couldn’t be—I studied an instrument for years and I know how physically taxing it can be—but she made it look as if playing the clarinet was the most natural thing she could possibly do. I was equally proud of her.
My thoughts delved further inward as I watched her play. As a writing major, I do not have a final project. Sadly, I do not get to take the stage and recite the poems I’ve written or read the stories and essays I’ve penned in order to pass my classes. None of it will be put on display, and none of it has been published—though a bit has been performed. Very few people will know how much I’ve done over the last four years, nor how thoroughly I have been trained. I suppose I should have written a novel by now, but that certainly hasn’t happened. No, I just wrote myself silly so I could get a degree that ensures I will continue to write myself silly for the rest of my life.
But life, after all, is everyone’s final project. We work hard so we can become the best people possible—as for myself, I intend to be the best follower of Christ I can possibly be. My life is a project, continually guided and assessed by the Person who began it. At its conclusion, I hope to receive a grade of “Well done,” and am working towards that end. We shall see.
Until then, here I am. Writing. Writing about people I love doing the things that they love, observing who they choose to love and loving what they choose to do. Life is such a many-splendored thing. I and my childhood friends may graduate soon, but that doesn’t mean we’re done. No, we’ll have far to go. But it’s a journey worth taking.
I wonder where we’ll be ten years from now.