No turning back

Intermission

The return to New Haven fast approaches. It’s that time. My gap year must end, preparations must be set in motion, summer must come. The days are getting longer after all.

My thoughts rest on a nostalgic plinth these days. The months have passed at a brisk pace: work-stuff, school-learning, soul-searching, clarity-seeking and sun-basking soaked up all the minutes of my sabbatical. That’s a lot of hyphens, and no room left for any kind of regret.

No looking back, I say. A gap year cannot afford any doubts, for it requires some degree of planning and control. While prudence doesn’t preclude the certainty of mistakes (or even misdeeds), there is little time for contrition — regret’s sterner sibling, fueled by faith. I know all about contrition. Growing up Catholic you are encouraged to doubt your motives so that in turn, you opt to act with moral conviction. After straying from the Church in not-so-recent times, I found myself throwing excess vacillation out the window.

As a limited resource, time should not be wasted, and it should be taken seriously. As stated in Ecclesiastes 3, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” There is a time, there is a time.

I first heard this famous Bible passage in “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” the 1965 hit from The Byrds. I was 10 and a pop culture sponge, and the song came up on the radio. Who knew Hispanic radio could do folk music? It was so sweet, but soon enough I heard someone in the pulpit recite the same words, in Spanish and in a more somber tone.

Roger McGuinn and my preacher both wanted to make the same point. It’s not about time in terms of finite units. It’s not about being late for a lunch date or procrastinating on your final paper. It’s Time with a capital ‘T,’ periods of your life that cannot be truly defined by hours or days.

There will always be “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). A sad movie, a joke from your lecturer, the sudden loss of a dear friend, M O D E R N L O V E. You don’t really measure these moments with pros and cons, you focus on living them lest you’re burdened later on with too many what-ifs.

But feeling uneasy about past decisions is just as natural as choosing not to worry at all. I do mull over the shoulda coulda woulda’s of my gap year, and regret threatens to tinge my budding nostalgia. To counter these toxic feelings, I revel in the knowledge that my gap year was my “time to get” and my “time to keep” (Ecclesiastes 3:6). I spent my time “constructively,” as my dean recommended, and I accomplished what I had envisioned for myself.

Time off from Yale is still time in and of itself, and I’ve tried to wise up about it. Every one of my decisions has had its own time to happen. I may only be spewing out platitudes, but I have the world’s oldest lyrics to back me up.

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