by Kevin Shafer:
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours getting a personalized Spanish
lesson in preparation for work in South America. I took eight years of Spanish
from 8th grade through college and can’t speak a lick of it. I never
took the classes seriously, thinking, “I will never use this again in my life.”
Flash forward 15 years to BYU where I have become increasingly interested in
studying men, depression, and families in South America. Of course, my “I don’t
care” philosophy in high school and college has now come back to proverbially
bite me back.
This is a small example, obviously, but one that I think
illustrates the fact that we all live with various regrets in our lives. How
many of us look back on our lives and dwell on the things we’ve done, left
undone, said, or thought? How many of us look back and wish that things would
have been slightly different? Our attitude influences so much of this. I’m
convinced that if I had really put maximum effort into learning Spanish and
came away knowing as little as I know now, I think I would be okay with having
to relearn (or, more accurately, actually learn for the first time) the Spanish
language. But, what hurts is my casual, callus attitude at the time.
I’ve seen this as a college professor. Many students have
said something to the effect of, “Why should I care about this?” Well, here is a
perfect example. As a good friend of mine explained it, “I didn’t think I would
ever use statistics again when I took it in 2006, and then I realized it was the
currency for all of academia.” He didn’t know eight years ago that he would be
on his way to becoming a college professor, but he is on that road now. Even
those things that aren’t our life’s direction are important. I saw Neil
DeGrasse Tyson on the Colbert Report last night. It’s exciting to see his enthusiasm for astrophysics—almost infectious. But, as he spoke I thought, I’d
know so much more about that which he is speaking of if I had actually paid attention
in my astronomy class.
We never know who we will become in the future. Perhaps we
have a view of who we are now—but that is one that is often clouded by various
influences. But, it’s hard to know what 5, 10, or 20 years in the future holds.
Certainly we can have faith that what the Lord has in store for us is something
that is part of his personal plan for us—but we don’t know what opportunities,
interests, or life events lie ahead. This isn’t just a good lesson for us as we
prepare for our future-selves coming down the road, but as we speak to our
children, family, and friends about the regrets we have in our lives and share
what we learned from them.
Kevin Shafer, or the guest child formerly known as Cougar Buckeye, is currently a resident of Springville, Utah after growing up in Columbus, Ohio. He is a convert to the Church, having joined in his PhD program at Ohio State. Today, he is a professor of social work at BYU where his convert status and lack of degrees from said institution adds just a hint of diversity. In contrast to his own family history, he thinks that his wife’s ancestors may have missed the April 6, 1830 church meeting, but were definitely there on the 13th. He and his wife and three beautiful, rambunctious, and zesty children. He thinks the best part of MMM is the relatively easy peer review process, which stands in contrast to his professional life. Twitter: @ShaferSW.
Image credit: eflon (used with permission).