The Choices You Don’t Make

book2There’s a certain something that happens when you have coffee with a former student.  The blessing of my work is often in what happens after I leave the “official” picture, when a college student becomes an emerging adult, when ideas batted around in dorms and classrooms become fully-formed moving pieces in someone’s life.  I felt that way this morning, when catching up with J. as he breezed through town.

J. likely never made the social media #OnlyAtGW posts when in college.  Instead of working on the Hill or aiming to take over the SA, he spent his years on campus sometimes wondering why he chose to come to college here in the first place.  He got his hands dirty in gardens on campus, and promptly following graduation, he got out of town.  I’ve always been struck by the aura of spirituality and goodness that radiates around him, in a subtle but definitive way.

In telling me of his journeys since college, I asked how his parents had been receiving the news of his choices.  He will never be the Jewish doctor or lawyer of many mothers’ dreams.  Explaining that it took them a while to come around to his career path, J. ended by saying that things are good.  His mother, in pursuit of understanding her beloved son and his choices, recently asked him, ‘What book can I read?’

Was there ever a better question asked by a mother?

We all circle around each other, understandably judging the decisions of others in order to place our own life choices.  As a young parent, I haven’t yet experienced what it means to have my daughter make different choices than I had anticipated for her.  J.’s mom could have asked in her question: Why did you leave the path I built for you?  Instead, her question said: How can I understand your chosen path?

How can you bring joy or take action to support the decisions of others – instead of bringing resentment that their choices might have been different than others?

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