| Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I really love quotes. I have Word documents, Moleskines, OneNote presentations and numerous iPhone notes full of them. I first fell in love with quotes in high school when, as I asked numerous theological and philosophical questions of myself and my faith, my mentor, Mr. Yeazell, countered with ideas from just about everyone – from Dr. Seuss to the Pope. These short little nuggets of wisdom helped me see difficult concepts in meaningful ways. And since then, I have made it a point to have them ready just in case I can help others to see, too. Not only are they words of wisdom for me, but mantras to live by, words that guide how I act in and think about the world.
I still remember the first quote I ever memorized: “Do not delay gratitude.” It is a quote I try to remember intentionally every year, especially around this time at Thanksgiving. But there is one thank you that, for one reason or another, has gotten delayed. It is a thank you I have been meaning to say, but never quite had the right words. Now, five years later, the words have finally come.
This thank you begins with a bit of back story. My first two years of high school were some of the most difficult and miserable of my life. I became consumed with a strong drive to study and succeed, a drive only exacerbated by the competitive environment at my high school. This drive eventually consumed all of my thoughts and desires, so much so that activities like theater, a source of joy during childhood and junior high, simply became nothing more than a means to an end, a line-item on a resume I thought would be my golden ticket to the college – and future – of my dreams.
But the toxicity of my desires began to weigh on my heart. Two years of intense work had indeed resulted in a point increase on my GPA, but a few points’ decrease in my relationships and family life. I had relatively few friends, rarely hung out with people on the weekends and did not go to a single dance. I began to realize what I really longed for was not the security and assurance of the college of my dreams, but the security and assurance of knowing I was loved. But I had closed myself off from this love for so long that I no longer knew where to turn to find it again.
Everything changed during the fall of my junior year. After the closing night of our fall show, I saw an unfamiliar screen name and message pop onto my AIM window out of the blue. The message came from a girl named Allison, who, unbeknownst to me, had happened to see the production because her boyfriend was in the show. She had liked my performance and wanted to introduce herself. Little did I know her simple hello would blossom into a friendship that would change my life.
Although I did not quite see it fully at the time, Allison showed me a way back to discover my true heart.
She gave me opportunities to love – she invited me to do things alongside her friends who, coincidentally, were people I had been acting with all along. Her care broke through the ambition which had closed me off from others. Her attention opened my heart in ways I never thought possible.
Muhammad Ali once wrote, “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” I thought people would only respect me if I did well and succeeded in class. But I realized Allison didn’t care about how much I could achieve. She wanted to know me, deeply and truly. And I came to realize that I wanted to know people in that way too.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “What does not satisfy us when we find it was not the thing we were desiring.” All along, I had been searching for my happiness in what I could achieve, not how much I could love or open myself to the unconditional love of others. Allison taught me friendship is a form of love, a love so powerful it can break through a stolid and focused heart. And that’s something I never could learn from a book.
Kate DiCamillo once wrote, “If you have no intention of loving or being loved, the whole journey is pointless.” I thought I had my whole journey planned out, but Allison’s friendship showed me another way. Her love was a reminder that perhaps my destination does not lie here, but in God, who satisfies all desires.
Scott Boyle is a graduate of Notre Dame and intern in the Office of Campus Ministry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.