Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Aspen High School class of 2012, are you a little tired of talking about where you are going yet? That’s fine, because I want to talk about where you’ve been.
OK, maybe just a little on the future: From here you will increase in knowledge, and more importantly, wisdom and understanding. You’ll enjoy a career or two, perhaps many more. You’ll see lots of new things and even explore a few. You’ll make new friends and enemies; hopefully a couple of the former stick with you always and most of the latter become part of the former, eventually. You’ll fall in love deeply and forever, so don’t rush it. There’s a lot of great stuff ahead, but if you are truly successful in life, at many random times from now until the end, you will marvel and say to yourself in complete honesty, “Inside I feel the same as I did when I was 18.”
As you know, being fresh off the trailing edge of a storm front of final exams and term papers all while convincing yourselves that your next chosen step in life will land on the right path, being 18 is almost everything except carefree, but it is the time when the foundation of your formative years begins to solidify and that’s what makes this age remarkable. Everything that happens to you from here on will change you little and mostly just add to what you already have become. I hope you find that comforting.
You might believe that you are nothing but lucky to have grown up in this magnificent piece of God’s handiwork. Hardly. Most likely your parents recognized an opportunity in this community, which didn’t materialize by accident, either, and worked hard to make it happen for your family. You want lucky? Look around the dinner table tonight, and thank the Lord for putting you there with the people who love you more than anyone else in the world and did what it took to raise you here.
As you know, and will soon appreciate more as you visit places that value it less, personal growth is part of the routine in Aspen. What you learn in college probably won’t be as broad as what you got here. Think back to those early years of the outdoor education program. That was informal learning at its finest. Nobody taught you that teamwork always leads to success. You figured out that it only ensures that you will have someone to high-five if you do succeed and, more importantly, that you will be connected with others to trade shoulders to cry on if you don’t.
Then there was eighth-grade outdoor ed and a bit more structure – rock climbing, the ropes course, solo, the wall, silent log, jog and dip, and the high rappel It’s not about bravery – it’s about confidence. You have to be brave only when you’ve failed to make the effort to become confident. You learn how to do something. You get the right tools. You check and double-check your knots. When you finally drop over the edge of the cliff, you’re scared, of course, but you know it’s going to be just fine.
Then there was the formal part of education. For example, remember Mr. P kicking your butts up, down, all around and eventually right through the heart of Shakespeare? Sure, he enjoyed seeing you sweat, but that’s not why he did it. He was clearing a blind spot. Now that you’ve seen that kind of beauty, you can find it on your own, anywhere you go.
Your teachers were expert at blending classroom and exploratory learning, too. Travis wasn’t just teaching you the difference between sandstone and granite to kill time between paychecks. He showed you things in books and then showed them to you from the top of Highland Bowl to prove their scale. He wanted you to understand that this world is unfathomably old, the forces of nature are immense, and the point we mark on this planet is miniscule. There is something greater than we can imagine. Never lose the curiosity about what that is. Education leads to inspiration and truth.
And these are only a handful of the many things you experienced in a combination of the formal and informal educational blend that your Aspen schools and community are uniquely dedicated to providing; as in – it was a gift to you.
Remember, most of all: You are part of a special group of people who will never show up in Aspen full of expectations, wondering how this place is going to transform your life. You didn’t have to be transformed by Aspen – you were formed in it.
You are products of this place you care about so deeply, and because you cared so much for it, it is as much a product of you as you are of it. (Yes, we really did notice how much you gave back over the years. Thank you!) Although I am confident that you have built strong foundations here that are ready for whatever you construct upon them, there certainly will be times when the structure of your lives will feel fragile and weak. That’s just part of being human. When it happens, I hope you come back for a visit – or even to stay. Although God, your family and your friends are with you always, it might steady you to recognize them again in this special place where you got to know them.
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