I can't remember the exact day I decided to take the position with CapCorps Midwest in Ciudad de los Niños. It was a May day. I've written about my thought process before, so I won't bore you with the details of one instance of bravery or clarity in a moment of haze and fear, i.e., the rest of my life.
It is amazing, though, to ponder what I was thinking while I was writing my applications. I had at that point worked with the Center for FaithJustice as a member of the LeaderWorX program, worked for two summers in medical records with my dad's practice, was a member of President's society, had been a few positions in Esto Vir, did some stuff in high school, helped with various Campus Ministry activities at CU, officer of Chastity Outreach, but...I realized how little of it converted into something that really translated into "youth ministry" or, in my pessimism, anything that a volunteer organization could look at and say, "That's useful!" And in that moment, it was like my life opened up before me, and I saw that I was standing on the cliff of everything that was familiar, concrete, that I had known and knew, and what lay before me was a vast expanse of the unknown, profound and ultimately unknowable, and THAT was what I had to jump into in order to move on. Well, in that instance, I didn't see what other option there was: I considered the abyss, shrugged, and forged ahead in trying to figure out what I could possibly offer to an organization.
And I think of all of you who are on the brink or have surpassed the brink of graduation, be it high school or college or whatever. It's an interesting time of year, and invites everybody to experience a little bit of change, whether it's moving up the ranks, experiencing the world of unemployment (or summer employment, equally exciting!), a world of uncertainty now that the last 4-year period of their life (unless they go for PhDs or something) has come to an end and trying to figure out the next step isn't just written in stone. Sometimes the change is watching people undergo change and facing the consequences of what that does to one's own life. Maybe it's the mere memory of what happened last year and realizing what has changed and what hasn't that places the idea of change and the abyss back into my mind. Maybe it's just realizing how small that little piece of land of what I've known and experienced is in comparison to what's out there, and that being here in Peru has made me even more aware of that.
What an experience it is, to realize over and over again that that footing to which I so constantly return and wish to return is not nearly as big as I thought it was. In the end, perhaps my footing isn't as sure as I thought. That maybe things that I considered fact are other facts. That maybe the way that I've painted the picture of my life isn't quite accurate with all its embellishments and artistic twists and tendencies to make me look like the good guy. I won't beat myself up over it, but I'd rather see a portion of the real picture so that I can be a little more honest in the brushstrokes I use in the present moment and for the future. Is Michael capable of writing without metaphor? Not really.
When the unknown tries to teach us something about ourselves that we thought was so solid, or that makes up some component of us (in my case, thinking that I'm very mature...I'm not sure who I thought I was kidding) gets challenged, the easy thing to do is to run away from it, assume that it's wrong, ignore it, shut it out, and clamp your eyes and ears shut. But it might be life, the Holy Spirit, trying to knock on the door. Maybe it's something more insidious. The question is: Will one discern the spirits or will one let one's need to maintain their own painfully limited concept of oneself make the call? I've done the latter all too often. I'm a stubborn one. Sometimes all that one needs is to come to terms with the love that's present in their lives to make the more comfortable to venture into the beyond. Sometimes that is made manifest in prayer, in being able to be grateful for every thing that happens. Sometimes it's in the actions others show us. Sometimes it's just spontaneous. Sometimes it's when somebody is willing to stay on the line.
"Good luck exploring the infinite abyss!"
Congratulations, class of 2010. May your lights shine unto others and may you never tire of going deeper. Godspeed.