Contentment after College

Our church small group is having a themed gathering for our normal meeting this week. We are doing a “college theme” in which we bring food that is typical of what we ate during college. While this will no doubt be a fun gathering (not to mention lacking in nutrition), this got my wife Stephanie thinking about all the times she’s heard something along the lines of, “enjoy college, because it’s the best time of your life.” I think I told myself that and I’ve probably heard that from adults too.

College was great, don’t get me wrong, but what does that say about the rest of our lives? Steph noted that perhaps this popular conception about college has contributed to the epidemic of man-boys and extended adolescence. If teens and early 20-something are drilled with this idea that high school and/or college are the best times of their lives, then what kind of adults will that form? Either college grads will attempt to continue their college lifestyle, or they will go on to have jobs and families with the understanding that it will never be as fulfilling as “the good old days.”

This blog is written by a group of post-college age adults. Most of us bonded during the same college experience (mostly during one semester), but have now gone down very different paths. But this is one thing I love about The Corner Booth- we’re all here to converse as the people we are now, in our current stages of life. There is plenty of reminiscing that can be done (and probably will be done at times), but that is not what we’re characterized by. We can appreciate each others unique circumstance without having to rely on speaking in anecdotes and inside jokes….mostly.

The Bible says that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” The context there is about materialism, but I think this applies to stages of life too. I have found that contentment is like a meta-skill that can often be universally applied throughout life. A “grass is always greener” or rather “grass was greener” mentality only leads to misery and a lifetime of bitterness as we age farther and farther away from what was supposedly the “best” times of our lives.

Our culture highly values youth, but God ordained that we should age for a reason. If God is for our good, can’t we appreciate every stage of our lives until death? I refuse to buy into this idea that there is one time frame of my existence that should outshine all others. I believe that college was great, but being a husband and father is great too. Having a family with teenagers will be awesome and there will be many great things beyond that. I have known people who had trouble getting pregnant, have not had the opportunity to marry yet, or have been frustrated at their lack of success in their career. These can be frustrating times, but we should make the most of them while we can. Time spent being discontent about your station in life is time wasted.

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4 thoughts on “Contentment after College

  1. Amen/holla. I agree whole-heartedly.

    Every stage of my life (except middle-school) has been my favorite stage. I think it keeps getting better!

    That being said, lack of contentment and understanding of the big picture is probably my biggest joy-stealer. I feel like I missed out for years because I had an internal monologue of “Once I reach the next step, THEN I’ll relax…” That kept me from enjoying the present and engaging with my actual life. Still an issue, but at least now I’m AWARE of it being an issue.

    Good thoughts.

  2. Man, this was a great post (also a great reply Joey). I have thought about this often pretty much throughout life. I remember in high school I looked forward to college as this time of freedom and deep personal growth, and while I experienced that, I also wasn’t really content with my time there. While in college I wanted to get out and start making something of myself professionally, so I wasn’t as happy with where I was going at the time, it felt like treading water or spinning my wheels. Now that I’ve been out of college for six and a half years I’m starting to learn what contentment in the midst of my situation really means.

    I think we read books like Ecclesiastes where Solomon details that there is a time for everything, and think “I really like those times of gladness and singing and peace”, and hope that contentment really means a time when there will be no strife or hardship or difficulty. There are times to move on, and sometimes they will seem harder or less desirable, but they are there for a purpose. Paul describes our lives as a race, a constant progression forward with the ultimate finish line a dwelling place with Christ. We must push forward. We must be content that God is moving us, but not content to stay where we are.

    I’m excited to see what the future might bring, and I’m glad to know there are others with me in the Booth who are looking forward to what comes next as much as I am.

  3. You say this well.
    This made me think of a study (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/) that underscores how unhappy we make ourselves by thinking about things other than right here right now. I think that must be a life-long discipline, because its tough for me. But it’s a really beautiful thing to just be content with this person or task or pleasure in this moment. I think it’s being like God.
    This also made me think of the flip side, the struggles and pain we experience in every stage of life. It never goes away. I totally got that advice too, from lots of adults in high school: “this is the time of your life.” And there I was struggling with it, sometimes seriously. I remember thinking, “It’s downhill from here!?” It’s encouraging to remember that there’s darkness and joy all through it. Winter and Spring. I think we do a disservice to everyone when we imagine that we came from some eden of childhood. I read an interview of Maurice Sendak (wrote Where the Wild Things Are) recently. He’s famous for his dark kids stories which parents hate and kids love. He just died. He said, “I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”

  4. I’m with Joey. AMEN/HOLLA!

    Life is so beautiful… sometimes we forget about it, often I worry so much that I ignore it, I romanticize the old days and I blaze past the now, but it is a gift. Every moment is a gift.

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