Spring brings season of transition, difficult lessons for some

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.

“You can do anything you want in life,” the first-time father told his young daughter.

It was a statement heard often throughout her childhood, and into adult life. Its boundaryless premise, however, both inspired and frustrated her.

Encouraged by her father’s confidence in her abilities, she boldly tried new things. She succeeded in many, but not all of her efforts. The shortcomings perplexed her when placed beside her father’s expectations.

Yet, he always supported her.

“Just do your best,” he would gently say.

But sometimes, life teaches us, our best is not good enough.

As the steely will of spring brings its inevitable transitions, I’ve thought about my friend and her father’s advice. This year’s reawakening seems more vibrant than most, perhaps because of its steadfast triumph over our long hard winter.

I sit on my deck watching the azaleas bloom where 3 feet of snow once lingered for weeks.

Equally dramatic transitions are ahead for many families. Final exams are indeed final, signaling more than just the end of a grading period.

Children and their families are launched into the world of waiting — where their next steps are unclear, often defined by the size of an envelope.

Thick letters of acceptance and thin letters of rejection foster dreams or fuel nightmares by the doors definitively opened or shut with the news.

As parents, it is hard to watch your child learn the tough lesson that many of life’s paths are not chosen, but taken by default.

Yet, I’ve learned, it’s important to look beyond others’ measurements for success and strive to create an internal one, especially when facing judgments beyond our control.

“Did you impress yourself?” is still my favorite question to ask a family member or friend at the end of a tale of triumph or defeat.

The answer forces an internal measurement, clearly revealing self-perceptions.

But my favorite story that both comforts and gives perspective is from my father.

He told of his college professor at Wake Forest University who introduced the semester with a lecture that included his philosophy on grades.

“Each of you will seek your own level in this class,” the professor predicted with authority. “If you are an ‘A’ student, you may get an occasional ‘B’ or ‘C,’ but eventually you will return to your own level and get an ‘A’ for the course.

“The same is true for a ‘C’ student. You may ace an exam or two, but ultimately a ‘C’ will be your grade.”

I think life is a lot like that.

We seek our own level in life. If we are an “A” person, we may have a couple of “B” or “C” experiences. Maybe even make a couple of mistakes or an “F.”

But, ultimately, we seek our own level, and resume our role as that “A” individual.

It is the eastern culture’s mantra of “It is what it is,” altered a bit to “I am who I am.”

Life experiences may challenge us, put us on a deviant path, or even knock us out of the running for a while.

But, just like spring, our nature cannot be thwarted for long.