Caleb Woods, a military veteran and freshman international rescue and relief major, wrote about his first day at Union College. We thought it was worth sharing.
People always ask me what I am most nervous about starting college. I usually just say that moving to a new place by myself is the hardest part.
In reality, being in school and sitting in a classroom more than 10 years after high school terrifies me. As a 30-year-old and a combat veteran, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more out of place than sitting behind these multicolored (and undersized) desks here at Union.
I’ve been to war several times. During the years I was deployed, it felt like I got to know Afghanistan better than I know my hometown of Chicago. It’s hard to explain, and it doesn’t make sense to most people, but I feel more comfortable under enemy fire than in the relative safety of a college campus. Even typing those words feels strange, but it’s the truth.
During freshman orientation, the speakers kept talking to us about finding our path and discovering our purpose in life. It was a strange sensation to listen and sit among all the 18 and 19-year-old students while many declared that this was their first time away from home. There was so much innocence and hope in the room, but I couldn’t help but feel like I’ve already lived out my purpose.
But something that Rich Carlson said in his first “Good Morning Union” message stuck with me, and I can’t shake it despite my ongoing resistance to everything religious. He wrote:
‘I pray that you will take this first day experience and use it as an opportunity to, in a way, start over; start again; stop fretting over the past and look forward to an amazing future.’
Simple words, but they had more of an impact than I was expecting.
I’ve been living so much in the past, dwelling on what I used to be instead of what is in front of me. During every waking moment of every day since I enlisted in the army, my thoughts have been consumed with the military. I will never forget what I’ve learned in the army, and I’ll never forget my experiences both good and bad in Afghanistan, but I’m doing my best to move forward with my life and to begin, as my dad says, ‘cultivating a life of the soul.’
My palms are a little sweaty, and my hands are shaking because I’m not usually one to write down, let alone tell anyone, how I’m feeling. But I’m doing my best to follow Pastor Rich’s advice, and I’m doing my best to let go of the past and look forward to an amazing future.