Every once in a while, God gives us a mulligan, or a "do over."
Years after leaving Wabash College, I've felt that I misused the time and funds that were given to me to pursue a higher education. Seventeen years later I finished my first semester of school with straight A's. There's more to this than just bragging about my grades (although I'm sure there's some pride in it!), it's about getting the chance to do things the right way, and see how the Order has allowed me to mature, assess my gifts and strengths, and revisit an important part of my life: being a college student.
The last time I attended a four-year institution was when I lived in Crawfordsville, IN and attended Wabash College. Wabash is tough school; any graduate will happily tell you how they "made it through." There was a sense of pride in attending Wabash, because of test scores, grades, and my essays. Not only was I able to go to such a good school, but I earned a full-ride.
But like most first-year college students, I didn't do well. It wasn't that the classes were too hard; rather I was like most college freshmen - retaking courses I took in high school. My first semester was Music, Spanish, Calculus, and History of Christianity...and the last class was the only class I hadn't experienced already. Rather than seeing my schedule as an opportunity to get a good jump on school, I found it to be a waste of time. I ended up leaving Wabash out of academic probation.
People often tell me: "Many people have that experience with college." While I might not have had the maturity to properly handle higher education, I've never tried to make excuses for my time at Wabash. I was given an opportunity and people paid for me to have that opportunity. I spent many years wishing to have the time back...knowing I'd do things a lot differently.
Seventeen years later I've finished my first semester of college at St. Xavier University, able to do things the way I should have done years ago. And while I would have been a better student had I done this when I was "of the world," by returning to college as a Capuchin friar has prepared me for this moment, as well as for learning at the Master's level.
The first two years of Religious Formation had plenty of schooling. There are books to read, there are classes on every part of religious life. There are presentations on the life of St. Francis, understanding different Papal Encyclicals, discussing Liturgy and prayer...the list goes on. There's plenty of learning in both Postulancy and Novitiate as well as encouragement towards continuous learning. Being in religious formation also gives me the time to study. Working full time and having a family makes it tough for adults to return to school; it can be almost impossible to be a full-time student. Being part of a religious community gives me the time and space to learn and do my best in school. Being here at the friary is a lot different than the dorms at Wabash!
So my first semseter at SXU was much like my first semester at Wabash: I found myself taking a lot of classes I'd taken before. This time, I took the opportunity to get good grades while re-integrating myself back into school. There was plenty of homework, lots of papers and plenty of books to read. But I decided to put school first this time around, even when it meant not blogging for about a month or two. And I've been rewarded with my first good grades as a college student.
I return to school on the 15th of January. While I'm happy to be on break, there's a part of me that wants to hurry up and complete all my school. Maybe it's because I want to somehow erase that feeling of wastefulness from years ago. Maybe it's because I'm 35 and I'm starting ask the dreaded question: "How much time do I have left?" Either way, the opportunity to redo my college experience is a dream come true.