“The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
—Howard Zinn, from The Impossible Will Take A Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times
It’s the holiday season. Somehow this has happened. I’m writing this post the day before Thanksgiving, but by the time it is published, the turkey will be (mostly) gone and the Christmas music will be going full-blast in every store instead of just half of them. Time is flying.
I’m in the midst of change right now, lots of change that will be happening in six months (marriage!) and some that I hope will happen sooner than that. I realized recently that while I’ve always thought I’m scared of change, this is not the complete story. I like order and predictability and being able to plan. However, I also have voluntarily made several big decisions over the last ten or so years where I chose the unknown because I felt stuck otherwise. Did you know that Calvin was my third college? I transferred in my junior year. I don’t make this information apparent on places like my resume.
Returning to Calvin my senior year was one of the most jarring sensations I’ve experienced in my life. I drove (from Massachusetts) into the parking lot at KE, got out of the car, and there was a classmate from the previous semester. It was like summer hadn’t happened. Worlds collided. So weird.
I think the difference is that some of these changes were me running away. Trying something new rather than sticking someplace out. It’s easy to make a choice to leave something that’s hard. But it’s difficult to actually start over—because the problems you tried to leave behind are not necessarily gone. They might be inside you.
I’m feeling inspired these days by 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Confession: recently I’ve been walking laps in the park during my lunch break, reciting this verse to myself in my head, and it makes me put my shoulders back and hold my chin higher. I feel silly when I realize this is happening. That’s okay.
The quote at the top of the page, too, is motivating in a less self-focused way. Change is happening in our world—politically, socially—both fear-motivated and growth-motivated. Responding appropriately is hard, especially when we’re just on the sidelines. It’s hard, too, to plan for a future that’s uncertain and shaky and itself always changing. All we can really control is the present.
And we can control that. We can make those choices. Not out of timidity, but out of power, and love, and self-discipline.
*The essay collection in which I found the Howard Zinn quote was recommended by this post at Brain Pickings.