What I learned from old people over break

This spring break, I didn’t do much. You always see what spring break is like in the movies, or even on social media. Pics of kids in Miami, Cancún, etc., really living it up. I was really never that kind of person, unfortunately. I ate lunch with my friends from high school twice, did absolutely nothing when it snowed, and made very minimal progress on my mission to finish the Office before the end of the semester. I didn’t even do my homework; I only wrote an essay because it was due during break. But I made sure, although I procrastinated, I would spend time at my church for its weekly Lenten Soup Kitchen.

No one really goes to soup kitchen except old people and high school students that are forced to be there for their confirmation class volunteering requirement. It’s kind of sad; I wish the high school kids were more enthusiastic about service, but they probably have a lot going on anyway. Among the old people that come though, there is such a strong sense of community. Because I’m super awkward, I just talked to old people the whole time, but due to this, I have an interesting story and cool observations to share.

One lady told me about her husband who passed away two years ago. She explained to me, how he was the only man she had ever loved. They had been together for years, since she was 14 and he was 15. He apparently had told his neighbor that he wanted to marry her two weeks after they started dating. “He didn’t tell me that until a few years later,” she laughed, explaining to me the fond memory. She was a really bright and kind old woman, maybe in her seventies. She smiled at me in a specific way. If I had to explain it, it would be eyes that reflected a life full of memories, experiences, and love, looking with a nostalgic look at an 18 year old girl who was yet to experience a lifetime of adventures.

Sometimes I feel so worried, that I’m wasting time or not doing things when I should be. Should I be pursing the person I think is cute, or should I just focus on my grades? Should I be traveling more, taking more pictures, and having more experiences, before it’s too late? I was talking to a friend at Rutgers who skips class and practices his guitar. Is pursing a hobby more important than the commitment he’s making to his major? Is there really plenty of time to think about what I want, and I’m just stressing for no reason?

I think I’m influenced by my mom. Her biggest regret was not studying more. She always complains that if she had a good education that my brother and I would take her words more seriously. She warns me that as a young woman, beauty and lovers are ephemeral; only education and learning is lifelong. Part of me is worried though. Freshman year is almost over. I’m the kind of person who thoroughly plans things out, so I have my study plan done and my next semester schedule planned. Is anticipating and planning this much worth the stress? I think about that a lot these days.

I just kind of want to live like Dottie, the lady from soup kitchen. Having just one person in your heart your whole life, and growing old with them: that seems like the most romantic love story. She had retired a few years ago, and ever since her husband passed she got really involved with ministries at our church. She just does the things she wants. Morning yoga class, spending time with her dogs, shopping.

I want to live in the moment like her, but it’s really difficult. There is so much I’d do if time, space, and money weren’t issues. I would travel all around the world. I really want to get into hiking, and take a lot of road trips. And photos. I would spend more time reading and appreciating art. This kind of easygoing-ness old people have about life kind of how I wish I could carry myself at my age. I wish I could think, “Everything that needs to happen, will happen.” I wish I could be more satisfied with my present than obsessed with the future, like them.