Oh, student who voyages here — know that the land you come to is more fickle than fickleness itself: we have snow, and a great deal of it! After coolness, after sunshine, after balmy temperatures that made the trees swell with hammocked friends, snow. It may be well past April 1, but the great ruse of rising temperatures has made us all fools as we together hunt out our base layers from corners of drawers, don nearly all else but t-shirts and huddle together in boots beneath the gutters of Knollcrest Dining Hall. It's not miserable if you've got an imagination for its beauty, but if Michigan were to try and earn trust, this lack of consistency would surely stand against it.
Except, I am sure Michigan is quite clever. It would inform me it's only consistently inconsistent, and thus trustworthy. And I would shake my head, because I suppose it's true — we have dependably been surprised. Calvin's staff one day applies salt to its footpaths, the next clears fallen brush from storms, or perhaps there's nothing to do at all, yet never the same thing in immediately following days.
If you were to listen closely, you could hear every inch of Calvin itching to begin the upward march to summer without delay. Ducks and geese have returned, the squirrels are constantly out and about, students sometimes wear shorts, and studies have gone from amicably challenging to seemingly insurmountable. All these things mark transitions of one kind or another, and I find as I take these in, I am reminded of how I write for you. To you who wonder if you're coming here, to you who may already have chosen Calvin, and to you who perhaps don't find this place as your first choice, I have written all the things I have in order to illumine the sometimes unseen experience of dwelling in a place hoped-toward. I find as I bear witness to the unique conditions of Grand Rapids, Michigan I want to share out of my excitement and struggle in all this change, so that you might be encouraged in whatever you now face.
These scalpy clouds dandruffing the grounds with flakes of sky, they remind me of the challenge of finishing well, with expectation, in a circumstance of renewed challenge. I may have experienced a little of the summer, but these clouds came back, and what is my attitude going to be to the weather, this change I would rather not have? All over at Calvin I have seen in myself and my peers the challenge of acting well in adversity, especially after success, especially after success at the same thing now being struggled with! One day I do fine with my logical proofs. The next day the same topic, but a new concept, and I don't do so well: I wonder anew if I am ever going to accomplish what is difficult. For you, it may be that the end of high school is tedium (perhaps the dreaded senioritis is within you!), and the mundanity of day-to-day success and disappointment now begins to make you wonder if it will ever end. One day, sun, one day, snow — and any end in sight? Is it just the case that all is being made and unmade in equal proportion?
I write to you, and I write to me, to restore a hope to each of us: what we do is not being unmade as fast as we do it, instead we both are reaching ever-greater heights. We have seen that even if Michigan is fickle, and some of the experiences of Michigan are difficult, nevertheless we know summer comes — the experience now is but a season. And I know the same applies to discouragement in academics, social spheres, within employment of any kind, that more often than not, a season of foreseen difficulty is prelude to a well-expected goodness.
For those of you in the process of wondering what your collegiate future may entail, that future you all hope to be very good — so if you are like me, and wonder sometimes to what end your effort might be, know that the end falls upon the challenges gladly met, stacking up to that finish: these things do amount. For me, that finish is knowing I have done the hard work of taking in wonderful things — for you, it may be the finish of a wonderful place to go and continue the effort begun. This seasonal sensibility, it seems, is well worth my investment, and perhaps yours as well.
It is wonderful that it is snowing, that I will put on boots and trudge: I trudge toward summer, one step in front of another, always proceeding. Let you and I proceed well! Ten thousand Michigans, ten thousand experiences of adversity and accomplishment, these amount to masterful goodness.