I studied English/Literature in college. During my senior year I took a seminar class specifically about American novelist Ernest Hemingway. As you might expect, it wasn’t the most popular class at Texas A&M University. At a university with over 44,000 students, I often had classes with well over 200 students at a time.
A whopping 12 of us took the Hemingway class.
I loved it. I didn’t necessarily love Hemingway’s work (it wasn’t my favorite), but I remember being so intrigued by his life. He fought in several wars, including WWI where he was wounded, he was married 4 times, he was an expatriate in Paris, he adventured in Cuba, the Caribbean and Africa, he survived two plane crashes, he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and despite all of that, he took his own life.
I’ll never forget studying his life and how it related to his works. And I’ll never forget what he said in an interview.
Never write about a place until you are away from it, because that gives you perspective.
For someone whose life was full of travel and adventure, as well as pain and loss, it’s impressive that he could look back on all of it for inspiration, for perspective.
Every year my husband and I plan a special dinner and conduct a kind of “Year End Review.” Ideally we do it in January to mark the end of the calendar year. Rob brings his phone and I bring my giant paper calendar that’s been hanging in the kitchen all year long. It is loaded with red and blue ink reminders of all the practices, appointments, trips, parties and events that filled our days. It’s really classy and quite romantic when I pull out my mom calendar in the middle of a nice restaurant on Main Street, sipping my wine and flipping my awkward pages. I’m “old school” that way; I “sync” my husband’s iphone calendar with my paper
calendar by briefly taking his phone each month, copying down all of his dates on my small squares. It works for me. It drives him crazy.
It always proves to be so much fun - looking back at all of it - week after week, month after month. I especially love looking at our year after it’s all said and done. It’s fun to remember key moments and specific circumstances surrounding big events like trips and holidays, but it’s even better to see all the ordinary, day to day things - with four kids, there is a lot going on. “Did we really have basketball every night of the week for three months?” Yes, yes we did. And then baseball. And then soccer. And so on, and so on. On the back side of it all, I have so many different emotions.
Sometimes I look back and think, “why was I so consumed by that? Why did I think that was such a big deal?” Other times I think, “why didn’t I do more of that? Why didn’t I take that more seriously?” I didn’t have a good perspective when I was in the middle of it, just going through the motions.
Perspective. It governs how we see everything in life. It determines our attitude and our response. Sometimes we don’t have it when in the midst of doing “the thing.” Sometimes we need a change of view to see things differently, to see things how they really are. Sometimes it takes being on the other side of it to really appreciate it, or to see how insignificant it is in the big picture. Either way, a change of perspective helps us determine what matters.
I often think about my perspective and how it has changed as I get older, as my kids get older. Things I thought were so important, just aren’t. Things I thought didn’t matter, do. A change of perspective might help us be better, do better - for ourselves and others
As it turns out, I don’t have a problem with the things I’ve done (and I’ve done some stupid things). I have a problem with the things I haven’t done.
I haven’t stopped to smell the roses.
I haven’t played with my kids as much as I should.
I haven’t called my mom enough.
Can you relate?
I haven’t had that conversation.
I haven’t kissed my husband/wife enough.
I haven’t traveled to___________ (fill in the blank). I haven’t made time for _____________.
I haven’t forgiven ______________.
I haven’t laughed enough.
Think about it. Maybe we can all be a bit more intentional this week. Maybe our attitudes, our perspective can shift right now. I don’t want to get on the other side of all of it and regret what didn’t happen...and I don’t want that for you either.
Some people see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?
- Robert F. Kennedy, quoting George Bernard Shaw, University of Kansas, 1968