My third September in Holland heralds its arrival with the return of the sharp Midwestern wind, the promise of warm apple cider and early Halloween decorations in department stalls and malls. With this December marking the end of my third year at Hope and New Year’s January the beginning of my last, it’s about time I began looking not only to the future but to the past.
The past is a one-way mirror we all find ourselves helplessly drawn to, where we become an audience to the stories of our lives. In the past we see stories of triumph and loss, events extraordinary and mundane, tales love and hate, all of them stories as old as time made new in the unique lens of our own lives.
I remember my first few months at Hope; the blur of a hundred new faces, the storm of a thousand new names, the giddy anxiety of going on into the unknown territories of a new world. Freshman year was a frantic speed-read through the story of my life, where paragraphs and chapters flickered past in a kaleidoscopic blur of Phelps Scholars activities, classes, assignments, field trips, community placements, parties, get-together’s and junk food. I lived through each moment of every passing day in a headlong rush towards some nebulous future, flying past fragments of my own stories and experiences as I smashed through the barrier of the present and into my immediate future.
The fall of 2012 went hurtling by into the winter, and then into New Year’s, in which I came to a screeching halt into the 19th chapter of my life, certain I’d done a great deal and unsure of what I’d learnt from any of it. If my experiences at Hope are ever to be a part of a larger cautionary narrative, I would hope my readers would learn to enjoy their own stories at their pace, marking every word and phrase with the passage of their fingers across the pages of the stories of their lives. And so the story of Alexander’s Conventional Adventures continued, even as the ink of the last chapter was barely dry on pages hastily flung by.
Determined to understand the narrative of my life and enjoy all the experiences and challenges it had to offer its hero, I went forward a little more cautiously. Mistakes were made and lessons learnt, but at least I felt a little more involved in my own story. I took some time to learn names and smile into faces, stayed a while longer to get to know the characters and places I’d found myself written with. And I think I’m still trying to get the hang of it. Reading the story of my life at my own pace without trying to guess at the endings and beginnings of new story arcs has been a challenge, but its one I think I’ll enjoy. Life is more than a series of hasty conclusions and sudden beginnings; its a journey, after all.