KERNS:Taking a (fall) break



Bryan Kerns

Last week, I took a different kind of break trip than what we normally talk about at Villanova. My break trip was not to El Salvador or Slidell or anywhere that far at all. Instead, I took a trip through my life to date – almost inadvertently.

I encountered nearly every segment of my family. I talked to teachers I had from second grade through the end of high school. I saw old neighbors, dear friends, mentors and relatives I haven’t seen in a while.

I spent three days in Washington D.C., with my best friend at Catholic University and met up with another high school friend I hadn’t seen in quite a bit of time. In each case, we reminisced about the past, talked about the present and looked to the future.

I received a call on the Monday of break telling me that my great uncle, who recently turned 80, had suffered a minor heart attack. My grandmother’s brother and his wife visited from Rhode Island during the first weekend of break, which led to a partial reunion of my maternal grandmother’s small family.

I visited my high school and lunched with another dear friend, who was also on fall break, and the school minister. I spoke with staff and teachers whom I had not seen in months.

I visited my elementary school on Friday and met with a teacher I had for a special seminar from second grade through fifth grade and with whom I had intermittently kept in touch over the past decade or so.

I visited the classroom of my second-grade teacher – one of the few elementary school teachers of mine who has not retired.

I stopped by the home of an 85-year-old widow. Her husband was my mentor – he taught me everything I know about civics, government and politics. They had no children and took three generations of neighborhood kids as their own. They traveled the world up until his illness, and now she wants to get on the road again despite the wishes of her extended family. She will prevail.

My own grandfather, 85 years old, got two new knees on Monday. The man hasn’t stopped working since he finished 10th grade and dropped out of school to take care of his sick grandmother.

Living through the Great Depression, flying planes in World War II, two marriages, six children and 15 presidents, his knees will be better than mine or yours.

If these thoughts seem disjointed, that’s because they are. They have been fermenting in my head since that moment in the second-grade classroom when I saw the smiles on the faces of the children who were amazed to hear that someone who had their teacher in 1996 was back.

Last week was a walk through my life – it included the young, the old, the middle-aged, places I’ve been in each stage of my life and a lot of time spent in the past.

In many ways, however, I’ve never been surer of who I am, what I want and what I hope to do. In many ways, it was taking that look at my life to date – a mere two decades – and discerning what that meant and deciding what to do with the next two decades and everything after.

I’m not talking about jobs. I don’t know where I’m going to be working in 10 years or even if I’ll be doing what I think I want to do now. I’m talking about the bigger things – the inexpressible hopes and dreams.

If there’s a point to be found in this column, it’s this: As college students, we often get caught up in the day-to-day. In the words of one professor, the year of a college student is like seven years in the life of a professor. So much can happen, and we run the risk of losing the discerning eye, the perspective.

It may be cliché, but the road of life is long, and we all need to take a break somewhere along the journey and gather our thoughts. I’ll see you along the way.


Bryan Kerns is a sophomore honors and humanities major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].