Those following these posts know Jennifer and I have been struggling a fair amount these last six months.
I have appreciated the process of the struggle and learned from it. I know I have grown as a result of the struggles.
At times like these, we sometimes take inspiration from others who have struggled and captured the essence of struggle eloquently. It is with greater import when such inspirational words come from a young soul who is just beginning to recognize the value of struggle.
What a delightful surprise today to receive an email from my closest friend Joel, whose son Owen, 14, has just graduated from eighth grade.
|Owen Gardner, giving a speech to his eighth grade graduating peers.|
The short graduation message he delivered to his peers impressed me so much with its poignancy, personal admissions and universality, I am reprinting it here.
I received it untitled:
“It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.”
That quote is from Charles Dickens' story A Tale of Two Cities, a novel about the French Revolution. I could not think of a better quote with which to describe these past three years. I got to know people that I never expected to know, and I drifted from some whom I thought I would never drift from. I faced many struggles over the past three years, some of which I have overcome, and some of which I am only beginning to recognize. However, all of my struggles, past and current, I have learned from, and will continue to learn from until the day I die.
A struggle with which I have dealt for as long as I can remember, is organization. Ever since I was a toddler I have had a particular knack for losing things. I have had credit reduced from many an assignment due to my poor organizational skills. However, schoolwork is not the limit of my challenge. Outside of school I have managed to lose many a toy, though I don't lose them so much now. I have tried to improve, and I think that I'm a bit better about my organization now, as opposed to when I was a child, however I know that I still have quite a ways to go.
I have always been quite the procrastinator. When given a long-term assignment, I have always managed to rationalize pushing it off until the last day. Especially long writing assignments, and oral presentations, something like a speech that one would write when leaving a school, talking about the various struggles they encountered and overcame while there. Hypothetically, if I had to write something like that, I'm absolutely sure that I wouldn't be done with it until the day it's due. Hypothetically. Whether it be video games, television, or just plain lack of volition; I always manage to put things that require time and thought off until I have neither of those things in any kind of excess.
Over the past three years I have actually overcome some struggles as well. One of which being my homework habits. Though I do admit that it does sound contradictory to some of the above things, I do believe that I have better habits than I did in elementary school. Back in my days attending elementary school, I never really did my homework, but still managed to get reasonable grades. Through my years here at Bigelow, I have learned that homework counts for much more than it used to. Hence in my past three years here, I have managed to actually do my homework, and losing it, as opposed to just blatantly ignoring it.
Everyone struggles, it's just a part of life. I struggle even when doing things I enjoy. The struggle, surprisingly enough, is often what makes it all the more fun and I get more out of the experience. There are many times that I feel accomplished not because I got something, but because I did it myself. Solving your problems by yourself gives this proud sense of accomplishment that cannot be found anywhere else.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.”
I have learned here at Bigelow, that no matter how much you may hate struggles, and try as you may to be rid of them, you need them, as they shape you. You cannot change them, you can only conquer them, or be conquered by them.
“In the end, you are exactly--what you are.
Put on a wig with a million curls,
put the highest heeled boots on your feet,
yet you remain in the end just what you are.”
* * *
Perhaps my favorite line of Owen’s is this:
“I struggle even when doing things I enjoy.”
His words certainly capture my feelings about working on Phoenix for the last few months. I will try to remember them the next time I am hot, sweaty, in a contorted position, with ribs aching because they are holding my body weight while I try to drive a screw, which has fallen several times during failed attempts.