Each life is a path

Tom Barrett

I studied abroad in Freiburg, Germany, last semester, and on my last night there – though I was excited to return home for the first time in nearly five months – it was hard for me to think about the fact that I’d probably never see my roommates again.

On that night, I hung out with one roommate who had become an exceptionally close friend of mine during my few months there.

We were joking around and talking about how it would be weird for me to leave the next day. He said, though it would be different and odd without me there every day, he was not going to be very sad.

He told me that, as a child, his mother told him a parable of sorts. She said that this life is like a path, and each of us has our own journey to make. While we will share our paths with others for periods of time – some shorter, some longer – our lives are uniquely and ultimately our own.

Last week, I discussed the biggest of all losses we can face: death. But we experience loss on a smaller scale every day of our lives. Ever since the first time that we ran out of cookies when we were kids, we’ve been forced to face the fact that nothing lasts forever and accept that everything we are given in this life is temporary. Things come and things go, and our lives are constantly changing. The problem is that part of us doesn’t want this change to happen.

We tend to like things to be stable. We like the security of knowing what we have. It’s safe. The thought of any disruption in our normal lives is scary because walking into unknown territory provides no guarantee of safety.

It’s only logical for us to want to cling to what we know. We long for things to last forever, but by dreaming of the impossible, we are only setting ourselves up for disappointment.

As a senior here, I am forced to face the reality that in just several short months I will have to say goodbye to so many familiar faces that I have grown to love seeing almost every day. I have so many fond memories of my time here, and the word “scary” doesn’t quite describe the thought of leaving them all behind.

Yet, despite my fears and my desire for my time here to go on and on, I know that I will inevitably graduate and be forced to close this chapter of my life.

All of us must face this fact of life, though. For the freshmen here, I’m sure the memories of high school are fresh in their minds as they begin this new leg of their journey here, and the goodbyes from high school are still echoing in their ears.

For some, they couldn’t wait to get out of high school, but for others, letting go of this part of their past seems impossibly difficult.

The lesson for all of us to learn is that life is going to keep moving, and all it is going to do is leave us with a choice. We can choose to fear what the future may bring and lament the parts of our lives that have already come and gone, or we can look at things a little more realistically.

We can accept that people will come and go and everything in our lives will be susceptible to the fickle nature of life. We can resist the urge to cling to people and things forever and instead choose to embrace them fully while we have them and lovingly let them go when it is time to part ways.

Ultimately, all that we are guaranteed to have throughout our lives is ourselves. We all have our own paths to follow, and though we may share each other’s at times, in the end they will have been our own. What becomes of them along the way, however, is up to us.

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Tom Barrett is a senior philosophy major from Colonia, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]