The university years

My oldest son left for university today.

I’m excited for him, of course! But I must confess, I’m also more than a little envious.

I was once in the same place, beginning my studies with a world of opportunity beckoning me onward. But that was a couple of decades ago.

Here’s what I’ve learned since then. At critical junctures in our lives, we make choices. And it’s impossible to choose one thing without not choosing something else. With each option not chosen, a door closes to us. Sometimes a series of doors close, like dominoes falling.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not necessarily talking about immoral choices, or foolish choices: just choices. Some of my decisions have been bad ones. But most have been of the other sort, choosing one good option over another.

It’s impossible to live without making choices; and it’s impossible to make choices without limiting your future options. That’s what I’ve learned, sometimes with lasting regret.

I didn’t understand how it works when I was Benjamin’s age. Now I look back, wistfully, to that earlier, innocent time, when whichever way I turned, the horizons before me were unobstructed.

I hope Benjamin savours the moment. It’s a season unlike any other in the life of a young man or woman.

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back to home and bed.

(J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Fellowship of the Ring, book one)

copyright © 2006, Stephen


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