I only knew them for three days, but to me it felt like a lifetime. There are some that I have meet, only to have them in my life for a short period. Maybe that is three days. Maybe its 30 minutes. It is hard to grasp that people can come and go so quickly, but as I dive in deeper into my college career I realize there is no guarantee on present reality. There is much unpredictability and uncertainty in life, in which I have found it difficult to put my trust in absolutes in the every changing world we breath in.
A couple weekends ago I attended a leadership conference at Purdue University called NACURH. There were thousands of other students who were also at the conference. These are all students who are leaders on their campuses. Everywhere I went there were students just like me. Students who were trying to make their campuses better. Sharing ideas, laughing at jokes, or talking about our favorite shows we made connections quickly. Some of the students at my school would be walking around the campus and accidentally walk into another group going the same way. All the sudden we are exchanging snapchats and acting as though we knew each other for years. It was like kindergarten all over again. You put two kids in a sandbox together pretty soon they are playing like best friends.
That is how college is. One minute we are living across from each other or down the hall. The next minute you are transferring schools, moving off campus,getting married or dropping out. There are so many people I connect with deeply then never see again. My freshman year there was a girl in my Spanish class named Tracy. We meet to study together for an upcoming exam. After we closed the books and ceasing studying for the night the two of us spent the next five hours talking. We talked about past heartache, future dreams, and the classes we were taking. Then I never spent time with Tracy again. We tried to meet up but out schedules just did not match up. I see her around campus and wave, like we had spent a lot longer than one evening together.
College is funny like that. Everyone is looking for friendships. Then one day we graduate and all of these friends we saw everyday disappear and the bond we once built.
At the end of conference I was walking back to the dorm I had stayed at to pack up all of my things before I left to catch a flight at 4:45. We had danced the night away on the dance floor and swapped school t-shirts to conclude a great weekend. I couldn’t help it. Tears welled in the corners of my eyelids. The thought crossed my mind, I will never see these people again. These people who made this experience wonderful for me….. gone. When I got back to my dorm we ran into some more students from Virginia Tech and Nebraska and ended up talking to them until it was time to catch the shuttle. It was just like kindergarten. All of us together making memories regardless of political affiliation, socioeconomic status, or family life. There was acceptance and peace. Though I may never see my friends from conference I will always remember the acceptance and peace I hope to bring along with me. Having the ability to accept others no matter where they are at shows a deep sense of leadership that all of these student leaders displayed. How could I not be inspired?
There are so many lessons to be learned from this brief three day encounter.
1.) Appreciate the Moment
I a daydreamer at heart. I am a writer. With an imagination as vivid as mine it is extremely difficult to focus on the moment happening in the present. Some days it takes a lot of effort to bring my head out of the clouds. I do not think I am alone. We all envision the way we want our life to rather than what is actually is. Yet, we when do this we miss out on the things happening all around in the here and now.
2.) Embrace the Awkward
We were lost and hungry. I was with a group from my school. We were trying to find the dining hall on a new campus for the conference at Purdue. From a distance I could see other students who looked as confused as we were. I asked them where they were headed. Turns out we were headed the same way, and an instant friendship was formed. For the rest of the conference I got the chance to get to know other students from different schools. All because I was able to overcome the five seconds of awkward.
3.) Treat People with Kindness Always
Every thrown away out of date yogurt. The yogurt was defiantly not that way when you bought it, but over as the yogurt crept its way to the expiration date its ability to do what it was meant to do begins to fade away. Our lives have been stamped with an expiration date. There is only a limited amount of time we are given. When I view life from this existential perspective I understand the importance of showing kindness to people while I still have the change. A smile, good morning, or simple conversation can really help go a long way in terms of leadership and making an impact in this world.
In life we are never guaranteed to have people stay in our lives. It is so hard for me to see think of the friends that I have lost or we grew apart. Yet I never saw it coming until we were already worlds away. There are some people I believed would be in my life for ages, now I do not even know where they are. That is why the present moment is all we can hold onto. The only thing we have is now. Looking back on my life, my experiences, and the people I have meet along the way sometimes I never treasured what I had until it had disappeared from my view.