During a homily, a priest reiterated the phrase “Life is short and time is precious” throughout in an attempt to impress the message of living life to the fullest and living a life that was taught to us by Jesus, a life of dignity, respect, love and humility. As he was speaking, I began to think about his words and the phrase—life truly is short, I thought. And then it suddenly dawned on me that I was an adult—a young adult, albeit, but nonetheless an adult. When did that happen?
I don’t believe that there is any defining moment that introduces us to adulthood. Certainly, starting college is a first step and growing independently from parents is another step. I think that is a gradual phase that passes by without much awareness until we stop to think about it. Yet, without a doubt, a defining moment of emergence into adulthood is the responsibility that weighs down upon us.
And with responsibility comes a necessary level of maturity. There is a certain element of adulthood and nostalgia that is rather sad; the element of looking back on past memories and realizing that today’s reality is not the same. I remember my undergraduate experience fondly—I loved my school and I actually enjoyed my dorm room experiences, for the most part. My memories are of wonderful professors and friends who stood tall with pride, love and respect for the fellow students and colleagues.
Sadly, not everyone seems to have that college experience; or perhaps, my memories are sugarcoated and I saw only what I wanted to see. In graduate school, I live apart from undergraduates; yet, I still see them and at times interact with them. And what saddened me greatly was the lack of respect and maturity that I saw in many. Certainly, college is a time of awareness and developing maturity—but one would think that respect would always be prevalent. Walking through a college dorm as a cut-through to my building in the rain, I was appalled by the amount of destruction and disrespect that I witnessed. Trash and furniture was strewn through the hallways, holes in the walls and fire extinguishers lying around after having been extinguished. This amount of disrespect to the school’s property as well as the other residents inhabiting the building was truly inexcusable.
It is not just a case of college students being students, for the disrespect is addressed towards their professors as well. In preparing the graduate students for teaching freshman level courses, one aspect of orientation involved e-mail etiquette. A professor took to the podium with a Powerpoint presentation of e-mails he had collected over the years from students and e-mails that, should we encounter, needed to be sent to our advisors or heads of the department. The sense of entitlement to the teacher’s time and to getting ‘good’ grades, despite their lack of effort stood out strongly to me.
Where do people obtain these worldviews? Where has disrespect and sense of entitlement come from? This is certainly not the life that Jesus modeled for us. If we look at society, the answer becomes clear. We live in a society that preaches self-fulfillment and instant gratification. We live in a society in which many deny the sanctity and respect of human life. How can future generations be respectful, mature and dignified in a society that consistently preaches immoral actions?
When St. Ignatius of Loyola bid his Jesuits farewell when setting off missionary work, he told them: “Go, set the world on fire and in flame.” Perhaps this is the message that parents, teachers and mentors need to impress to students embarking on adulthood. There comes a time when change is necessary, when maturity and responsibility need to affect one’s life. Life is short and time is precious—how do we want to live our lives? For me, I want to be an adult who has impacted the lives of others in a monumental way through my actions and the way I live my own life and treat others.
Heather Bozant can be reached at email@example.com.