This one is for the students. It may be for you, too, if you aren’t one of us. But let’s be real…
There are a lot of things for you. For you the engaged, the married, the pregnant, the parent, the job seeker, the passion follower, the traveler, the wanderlustful. This is not like that. This is for the ones who are students. That’s the thing we do. It’s the thing we don’t get to forget about for long. If we aren’t careful, it will become the only thing about us.
You are in school. You are up at two in the morning memorizing a list of asthma medications that will never matter again. You are sitting in a lecture that you have paid a lot of money for, and you are playing Tetris on your laptop. People meet you, and they don’t ask what kind of vacations you like the best or what pet you prefer. They don’t ask about the place you serve on Saturdays or the path you like to run by the river. They ask you what year you are, and they ask you your major.
And it’s different than asking your job, because your major is basically something you aren’t, yet. It might (probably will) change. But, even if you stay the course, being an accounting major is so different from being an accountant. One of those people is in an eight AM sociology class for no apparent reason. And you’re not your year, either. Not really. Maybe you’re on track or early or late or doing a minimester or a December graduate or…
And so you stay up at night reading Nietzsche and resolving vectors. In some ways, these are the best years of your life. The ones you will smirk at fondly during the long office meeting that will work its way into your future career. But in another way these are the stillborn years of your life. These are the times with the friends who won’t stay within a snapchat of your living room floor forever. The years you invest in a city and a community that will be nothing but memories in a few years. These are the years where you are underwater, dazzled by the way the world warps around you but knowing that you will have to breathe again at some point.
This is, most particularly, for the grad students who are doing this again. Who are watching so many friends move into Real Life, the kind with jobs and babies, while they take another policy class and write the hundredth one page reflection. It gets long. It gets lonely. And it gets frustrating to know that you’re spending as many years on your degree as your friends are spending on relationships. They get weddings and baby showers, and you get to pay tuition for internships.
You tell yourself you are becoming something. Suddenly, it’s okay to spend weeks without a real conversation that isn’t about professors and essays. Suddenly, it’s normal to have a panic attack over a half filled out scantron. Suddenly, it’s okay to not have time for the hobby you love or the organization you’ve always supported. Suddenly it’s not only normal, but expected, for everything you say and do to revolve around class. And you tell yourself you are becoming something.
Listen to me: you are something. Not a student or a TA or whatever. You are Something. You are a peacemaker. You are a child chaser. You are a writer. You are an open door. You are a shoulder to cry on. You are an open ear. You are an honest answer. You are a huge fan of bad country music. You are a pub trivia champion. I quote Mufasa, but you are more than you have become.
I know it can feel like no one sees it. I know that sometimes you need the all-nighter. I know that you need someone to listen when your professor is being a jerk. I know that school is a big part of the person that you are. You are pursuing a Big Life Dream and that’s so good. But you are alive now. You don’t magically come to life when they give you the license or the diploma or the job offer. You don’t magically flip a switch that catches you up on all the lives and friendships and opportunities you neglected. You are alive now.
I visited a church recently that called the kids up and read their report cards out loud. Everybody cheered, and the kids beamed. I wish like nothing else that I could do that for you. I wish I could shout to everyone about all the work you do that doesn’t seem as important as the weddings and the trips across Europe. I wish I could make a huge deal about the test you passed, and that your face would turn that pink color that means you want me to keep embarrassing you, please. Because I know. I know you are working so hard. You are making so many plans and trying to absorb so many things.
But don’t forget that your student insurance policy doesn’t refund today if tomorrow doesn’t go as planned. You don’t get these moments back. You were not given these years as a student to become this self-centered, inwardly-focused, near-sighted person who waits and talks about class (or your job. Or your boyfriend. Or your kids). You were given these years to live, and to love people. You aren’t just a person who is becoming something, you are a person who is something. And the rest of us need you to be that, whatever it is. We need you to be here, not be tomorrow. Because if you spend four years living for tomorrow, you may find that you don’t recognize anyone when you get there.
It’s advent, folks. And as a Christian, this season is about the already and the not yet. The already of the King who has come, and who has left us this work. Who has given us this beautiful thing to walk around in. But also the not yet. The tension that, at any moment, it could all fade into the Realest Thing. He could come back. And it’s so hard not to wait for that. Not to sit and stare at the sky, ready for the bad things to come untrue. Because Something is coming, undoubtedly, but there’s a lot that is already here, waiting for you to find it. Waiting for you to live it.