Many of us, sometime in middle-age, come to the point where we so desperately need to renew our hearts and minds. Recently, I was scheduled to meet a prospective student at a private, all-women college. I arrived forty-five minutes early and hadn’t thrown a book into my bag to read. I found myself feeling awkward and out of place on this campus that I had never been to before. I was surrounded by women who were decades younger than myself, many proudly wearing college t-shirts. So, I found a bench, closed my eyes, and went deep within myself. I had to find the place where I fit into the campus. Perhaps this is a bit of a Buddhist idea.
I found myself blessing these young women. May they create memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. May they form friendships that will last a lifetime, finding women who will celebrate their successes but who will also give them courage when they go through times when they find it difficult to find the light within themselves. May they find ideas that will change them, helping them to be bigger and brighter than they ever thought possible. May they find their true paths, ones that will bring them joy and also help them bring more good into the world.
When I finally sat down to talk with my prospective student, I saw someone who was excited about the future. She was filled with the possibilities that life held for her. She felt part of the college community and had found a place where she belonged. She enthusiastically talked about what she was learning from her fellow students.
In contrast, I see so, so many middle-aged folks who look defeated, disillusioned, and filled with cynicism. For all practical purposes, they will probably need to work for a few more decades. They self-medicate in different ways or get put on prescription medications. What if there was a more mature version of the college experience I witnessed, one that would help people go into their later work-years filled with a sense of possibilities, supported by a new, like-minded community, and motivated by fresh, exciting ideas? We need a place to go to where we can learn how to dream new dreams and create new visions. At the same time, we need a place where we can gain the intellectual, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills to make these new insights a reality.
I came out of my quiet time in a different place from where I had started. In someway, I belonged on that campus, if only to bless the young women and to bless those of us a little further on in our lives.