I am of the first generation After Kennedy—that is, I grew up annoyed at the way my teachers would get all misty and heartfelt about a shared experience that I had zero way to access.
But via my alma mater, I found another ‘in’ to Kennedy through his hat-tip embedded in this speech: “Why does Rice play Texas?”
As a student, I simply enjoyed being in the know—I’ve watched Rice play Texas in football many times, and those contests seldom end with Rice getting a confetti parade, oh well. But as I’ve grown, I increasingly see that while Kennedy was speaking to the nation he nevertheless articulated a Rice way of being.
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win. [as transcribed here]
Most of my life hasn’t translated well into winning or losing. But I continue to find that I am my best version of myself when I am in the middle of the things that are hard, those things that organize and measure the best of my energies and skills. When I am not heading toward my edges, not only do I not grow (shrug), but I contract… I become less of myself. In some odd internal economy, the more I stretch the more I have to give. (Up to a certain point, true. An important qualifier!)
Willing to accept. Unwilling to postpone. Intend to accomplish.
I can’t say whether Rice developed this persistence in me, or I came to Rice because I already had a dogged streak. I’m certain, though, that Rice deepened and strengthened my persistence, because Rice itself was hard, very hard, for me.
Despite seldom taking more than 4 classes at a time, I routinely felt as if I were drowning in work. Already of an anxious turn of mind/brain-chemistry, I had difficulty damping the bio-chemical floods without external intervention, whether that took the form of unpaid therapy from whichever boyfriend of the time or “out of sight, out of mind” trips to visit said boyfriend. (They both lived in Austin.) When I finished my degree, I was so emotionally exhausted I could not face the thought of even the simplest bits of ‘doing school’—teaching middle schoolers seemed easier.
And yet. And yet I didn’t crack up, didn’t drop out or transfer. I finished in four years. I acquired habits of mind that still serve me well, including the ability to suss out what, of any given block of work, must be done, and what can be ignored with little consequence.
I was stronger than I thought I might be. Willing to accept. Unwilling to postpone. Intended to and indeed accomplished.
I think about this quite a bit these days.
Willing to accept. Unwilling to postpone.
What will I accomplish?