Firmness of purpose is one of the most necessary sinews of character, and one of the best instruments of success. Without it genius wastes its efforts in a maze of inconsistencies.

~ Philip Dormer Chesterfield

I’m sitting on a bowed and weather-beaten wooden bench watching the crowds go by. Across the quad walks a former classmate, her fair, shoulder-length hair pulled back in a ponytail that bobs against her pink backpack. Her stride is determined and swift. She’s going someplace . . .

I see another group pass by. It must be in-class presentation day, for they are dressed for business. No flip-flops, fluorescent pajama bottoms or tank tops. Instead it’s shades-of-brown chinos and skirts. They are rehearsing: comparing notes; detailing segues; pointing at invisible pie charts. The appearance of purpose . . .

Me? I can’t seem to move from this bench and get on with wrapping up this semester. There is much to do, and all will get done. But at times the point seems lost.

I see these kids – for some are not much older than my teenage son – and envy their place in time. Barring some tragic accident or sudden illness, they are closer to the beginning of life than the end. Time stretches before them, a tapestry waiting to be woven. I imagine they can see it, what they want it to look like as it progresses, the nuances of texture and shades of color that will be for them a masterpiece worthy of display.

I know they will make mistakes. Circumstances will lead them down unbidden roads. Perhaps they know this, that seldom do our dreams materialize exactly as we imagine. Perhaps they are too young to care. So I wish for them an attitude of purpose leavened with a dash of creativity, for navigating the unexpected takes a stern rudder . . .

[photo credit]


22 thoughts on “Rudder

  1. Sounds like you need for the semester to be over, then do some serious gaming!

    Seriously, it is very easy to fall into wistfulness at the sight of such youth, but think of all the chances they have to screw up that you have already gotten past!

    Hmmm, I don’t think I am helping much. 😦

  2. Yeah, but their frontal cortex isn’t even knit completely together yet and half the shit they die of before their time will be due to that.
    I like my frontal cortex being knit completely together.

  3. On days like today when the clock moves at the speed of molasses, I miss college. However, I don’t miss my vermin-infected apartment, $42 bank balance or Dodge Dart.

  4. hereinfranklin has a point…while there are many things that we may miss about youth and days gone by, there is always a lot that we wouldn’t ever go back if we were given the chance…besides, you’re a lot smarter than they are! You’ve got so much more experience behind you and you’ve got that beautiful family of yours!

    Chin up. Eyes forward. Full steam ahead!

  5. Easily the best advice to “the kids” I’ve ever heard. Wow…

  6. you know what? seriously? your writing has just come leaps and bounds

  7. The difference between you and me is that when you are saddled with overwhelming tasks–you can still communicate. I just slobber all over myself and mumble incoherently!

  8. Wow, your quite the philospher(sp) and you have been come so smart!!! Don’t know where you got that from–lol Sounds just like your MOM-You are and will become a great thinker in our society. Your kids are truly blessed.

  9. I love this snapshot from your moment watching passersby.

  10. 70k a year. 2000 square feet. Brick. Maple wood floors. Cherry cabinets. 20 ft ceilings. Largest yard in the neighborhood. Surrounded by doctors and professors. Respected.


    Another night with that brunette in college.

    Sometimes you want to trade it all away. Hopefully a person wakes up before they do.

  11. A rudder is such a great metaphor. You lifted a moment out of your day and made something out of it that really resonates. But, then again, you do that so well. Great post.

  12. Love the way you wrote this. Hope you get your semester all wrapped up nicely. 🙂

  13. I think my rudder has a crack in it

  14. i love this post. i can’t decide if i would like to be back there not knowing what i know now and being where i am. like i have a choice. i made so many mistakes. so what am i going to do now with that knowledge? i feel kind of stuck and listless, i don’t want to do anything…

  15. I like this post very much. I feel the ache/longing of the words.

  16. I don’t even know where to begin…
    First, I say “been there” and you’ve captured that moment so beautifully.
    Second, I mention my 21 year-old son graduating with a shiny new B.S. degree and no idea what he’s going to do. He’d miss all the important parts of your post. I’m certain. Imagining he can see it will not make it so.
    Last, an empty nest may be some time away for you, my blogging pal, but the taste can sometimes be so bitter.
    I say look to the words of Eddie Money: I want to go back and do it all over. Of course, it’d be better if I knew then ……

  17. Brilliant post, Brian…really love your rudder.

    Now…then vs now? I would not go back there for anything. Broke, stupid, bad choices, did I say broke?

  18. Those kids being closer to the beginning of life than the end won’t even appreciate it until they are closer to the end of life. I look back now and realize how much I didn’t appreciate then. If I could go back with the knowledge I have now…I’d do it. If I had to be just as stupid as I was then, then I’d just as soon stay here in my “now.”

    As far as your previous post goes…sometimes the words of our kids sting, and they sting because they speak truth. But at least there has been no condemnation. 🙂

  19. It’s weird to be a ‘mature’ student isn’t it? I went back to school at 25 and even at that age felt a vast difference between myself and my fellow undergrads. But I guarantee you that I valued the experience more than they did!

  20. Just wanted to leave you a quick note to say I’m still about. Just reading when I can and missing my friends. – D

  21. Hey, just letting you know that you have received the Lemonade Award!

  22. First night I’ve had free to look on my blog for four weeks! So glad you found me.


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