In case you were not aware, this month has been edged in black by students deeply engaged in essays/exams and stress is epidemic. Thankfully, my burden has finally been lifted from my weary shoulders and I am once again free to enjoy the readings for my new courses and reflect on anything at all.
The month of January marked the longest time I have ever spent away from home and although I am of an independent nature, it has not always been easy to endure this separation from my family and friends. During these past few weeks, short of hiding in a corner and rocking back and forth, I have turned from my essays and questioned my reasoning for traveling to Leicester in the first place. There are in fact many individual moments in my life when the need to travel and to seek out new experiences was strengthened, but I will not catalogue them all. I wish only to use this opportunity to share something that has positively affected the course of my life and has given me much to be thankful for. I once attended a course on leadership, a subject that has become quite fashionable in recent years and indeed is often a mandatory requirement for the completion of an American college education. I don’t know if the course was exceptional in any way; I certainly do not count it among my favorites; however, it is a fact of life that sometimes one can find a thing of great worth in the unlikeliest of places. In this course, I was introduced to the life list of John Goddard. When he was fifteen years old, he sat down to create a list of all the things he wanted to accomplish within his lifetime. The final list, stopping at 127 items, is an impressive list of aspirations, but what is most impressive and quite extraordinary is the number of those things that he actually accomplished.
I was assigned the task of compiling a similar list at the advanced age of eighteen, and I cannot overestimate the lasting effect that homework assignment has had on my life. It allowed me to understand what I valued most and to focus my energies on achieving the goals that were no longer shadows lingering at the back of my imagination. It is such a powerful thing to see one’s ideas in print, to have something tangible to remember and consult. It is also quite entertaining to review when years and maturity separate you from your younger self. There are items on my original list that seem ridiculous to me now such as becoming an expert on wine (which I do not drink), learning the art of ventriloquism, and mastering the ability to extinguish candles with a whip! Then there are items that are still as relevant to my desires now as they ever were such as the learning of languages and musical instruments, if only for my own satisfaction. Appropriate for an academic, I have a peculiar talent for observation. I have seen people run down from exhaustion, perpetually stressed, and all wondering how anyone is able to enjoy life. It is a grim picture often titled “reality,” but I refuse to accept that. I understand that there are unpleasant aspects of life that cannot be avoided and that few worthwhile goals are ever easily achieved. I also know that there will always be someone to discourage you from even attempting to follow your interests, citing “reality” as a valid excuse for their own failure to do anything but observe others succeed. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is a worthwhile expression and one best remembered. I knew that I wanted to live in England, to know another culture and to experience life as more than a tourist. So I worked and I waited and advanced step by step with greater certainty towards my life’s ambition amid a din of negative opinion. Now I am here and although I never thought I would see the end of my essays, I have survived to see another day and to appreciate how truly wonderful my time in Leicester has been and will continue to be. Do not waste another moment. Write your list. Accomplish your goals and take the first step. I promise you will never regret it.
Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray-Oscar Wilde
Film: Summertime (1955)