I was talking with my son last week and reviewing some of his accomplishments in his freshman year of college. I could see some things that were invisible to him, because it’s always easier to stand on the outside and make observations. He is learning so much. To him it sometimes feels like he is slogging through obstacles. But on the outside watching him, I see him facing fundamental circumstances, the basic building blocks of adulthood, and winning. He is grappling with big issues and making great progress.
For example, he is facing the question, ‘How do I spread my time and energy across my social life, my close relationships, and my college work?’ It might be easy to say, ‘Hey, focus on your classes!’ But the reality is that classes and jobs and other big aspects of our lives always take place inside a larger framework, which is the stage of life we are in and our own developmental issues. It’s well known that people his age (just turned 19) are in the midst of adult identity formation, and socializing plays a major role. Top of mind are questions like: Who do I decide to hang out with? What do I do when I am with them? Do I want a primary relationship? What are my responsibilities to other people who I become close to?
And then there’s the fact that this is the first time he is out on his own, making daily decisions without his parents weighing in at every turn. Little things like laundry and meals become new choices, and there are many such transitions. They build up. There’s a lot going on. Not just college. And, in the midst of it all, he is expected to engage fully in school.
Some of the little decisions he is making today will turn into major decision-points in his life’s trajectory. These little choices are like acorns, easy to toss around and carry in your pocket now. You can transport them without a fuss and plant them where you like. But, once they start to grow it is quickly harder to make changes. And they will eventually become trees, which are almost impossible to move. Acorns into oak trees.
Are there decisions you are facing today that are like those little acorns? Easy to choose now, but with implications down the road that will be harder to undo? And what is the larger framework of your life? What developmental stages are you traversing? And what about your environment? Are there major forces impacting you, or big expectations that you have agreed to deliver on?
Where could this week lead? What feels mundane can have profound impact seen from another perspective. Is there someone in your life who can help you see the possibilities?
“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”
– James Allen