When was your golden age?
For me, it was college. After completing a year of missionary work, I attended two years at CSU Stanislaus, lived at home and worked. I missed the community of the missionary team. “Live with Saint Paul’s Outreach,” Elissa said, a ministry that focuses on college outreach by living near and working on campus.
“I need to go to school.”
“Go to St. Thomas. It’s right across the street.”
And that is what I did.
I left for Minnesota with the confidence of the love of the man I would later marry. I left with the maturity of the gap year, time spent in the workforce, and the legal drinking age.
There was Half Price Books, Patina, Cafe Bene, Cafe Latte, The Dubliners after long catering nights, theology with Dr. Boyle, mentoring from Dr. Buri, lectures and culture, thoughtful responses, a jazz club with a waitress who knew us by name, autumn leaves in color, fresh snowfalls, summer evenings, long days and long nights filled with friends.
I came back with friendships, deep, wonderful friendships.
There are these brief seasons in life when we feel we have it together. Rhythm was achieved, the right ingredients for growth led to growth, challenges were met, conquered and interiorized. Then it ends.
A new baby, a death, a job loss or gain, some significant change. And everything we had is gone.
Never mind, that there might be more money, more opportunities, another baby.
Change is change. And it hurts.
What did I discover about myself during that golden time? What parts of my soul awoke, were inspired or grew?
I have to ask myself, how can I practice them in this new mode of being?
I learned to be adventurous in San Francisco. Now, I can travel alone and love it.
I wrote in solitude. Now I can close my door Wednesday mornings and write at my desk by the window.
I met people, learned about them and their business. Now, I can write news articles about the projects of others.
She learned her soul comes alive when she sings. She can manage 15 minutes a day even with a three-month-old.
It is more possible than we think, but it takes planning and prioritizing.
The golden ages in our lives likely have a little less suffering, more freedom, good relationships, some comfort, some adventure…but more than all that, we discover and develop the best in ourselves.
Post-traumatic growth is the response of resilience to trauma. When pushed through to the greatest possible healing, those who emerge from trauma still standing have remarkable qualities of peace, strength and wisdom.
Psychology has relied on a medical model of disease prevention and treatment. Positive psychology wants to address how to go beyond surviving to thriving. Suffering is inevitable in life. Those who spend their lives avoiding turn their hearts to stone.
In “The Four Loves,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
When I really look back at my golden age, I was lonesome for the man I loved who was across the country; I experienced anxiety for the first time, a friend who would stay with me for many years to come; I spread myself thin between work and school; and just when I adjusted to it all, I left.
It was not actually perfect, but it was good and it was formative. I am more complete because of it. The time has passed. The friendships remain. And so begins a newer, better golden age.