Monday, May 07, 2007


I think I may have figured out how humans are unique among animals. We have the capability of planning, of looking to the future, of hoping and dreaming for events when they are still just hopes and dreams. So much of our lives revolve around the concept of potential - what things MIGHT be if we make this choice, if we do this action instead of that one, if we plan ahead and follow the steps proscribed in order to gain a scholarship, enter a career, or have a baby. But no matter how carefully we plan ahead, make our choices, or wish for an event, there are never any guarantees.

Today I spent a good few hours reading through scholarship applications. I've done this every May for the last four years, and each year I find it fascinating what kinds of activities the kids are doing to help them in their goals of going to college and their future careers. This year's group was varied - some kids were scholar-athletes, others were Eagle Scouts, some planning to go to Harvard or Stanford or Caltech and others deciding to stay in Colorado and attend a university here. One girl maintained a 4.0 GPA while successfully battling cancer twice - along with a classmate who lost his battle. She's planning to become a pediatric oncologist. The group of kids who apply for this scholarship are the best of the best, some of the best students in the state, and it never ceases to amaze me how driven, focused, and talented they are. Yet despite their drive and talent, who knows what will happen in the future? Will the kid who wants to be an actuary get to college and end up deciding he'd much rather be on Broadway? Will the girl going to Harvard join the Peace Corps instead of going to law school? People change so much from the beginning to the end of college; I can't imagine that every kid whose application I read will end up exactly where they thought they would when they were 17 or 18. The potential is there for world leadership, scientific innovation, medical breakthroughs, but it's also there for alcoholism, bad relationships, and disappointment - in short, life's going to happen, despite the best laid plans of each of these kids (and their parents, counselors, and teachers who helped them to where they are now). They won't be kids for much longer - they'll be adults with choices to make, and those choices will affect their careers, relationships, and achievements.

Today I also spent in kind of a sad funk. One of my friends was very happily and excitedly pregnant last week, and now she is not. Her story is not mine to tell, but she does read my blog and I hope she knows that her friends and family are thinking of her and her husband. My friend was very excited about this potential person, of all the things that the baby could have or might have been. And now that potential is no longer there. It's going to take some adjustment, I think, to rearrange the expectations for the future that she and her husband had. My own thoughts on reproduction have always been primarily in the hypothetical - what might the baby look like, sound like, be like as a person, but I've only really thought about it in a fanciful, pie-in-the-sky sort of way. My friend got to really dream and hope about what the potential person she carried for a few months would actually become.

I find the Catholic stance on reproduction to be interesting - that every time a couple has sex, they should be open to the possibility of conceiving. Without birth control, every month there's the potential for a new person to start being made. Even with birth control, there's still a slight chance. And there's also the possibility that bad things will happen, that one in the thousand or ten thousand, that baby who dies during childbirth or of SIDS, the child who didn't win his battle with cancer. The relative rarity of birth defects and stillbirth and infant mortality in this modern age makes the stories all the more heartbreaking because they are so rare. Luckily for my friend and her husband, they have families and friends who love them, support them, and will be there for them when they do welcome their first (and any additional!) child into the world. It won't be in October, like they thought, but it will be.

1 comment:

Sara said...

Thanks, Emily.