Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Per Chi?

For whom, Tess? Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love begs the question: for whom? For whom, in Elizabeth’s case, are the slinky, lace lingerie purchased in a sultry boutique in Rome? I, for one, cannot say that I have invested in exquisite lingerie lately, however the question of per chi still rumbles loudly in my head as I reflect upon my life.

The last four semesters of my college career have progressed quite smoothly and it wasn’t until my junior year began that I was hit smack in the face with a roadblock: I was burnt out. I chose the Pre-Law track when I was a young girl convinced I was going to save the world. The villains mutated and transformed, originating with dog snatchers, taking the shape of those men on Wall Street and now illuminated by domestic violence perpetrators. But with the distractions of most 20 year old college kids and with the LSAT looming, helping the downtrodden and impoverished seems worlds away, if even ever attainable. As I struggle through my assignments, grasping for the unyielding motivation that was so innate in my soul my previous years in college, I realize that, like Elizabeth Gilbert, I have no idea for whom I work this hard.

I mean for whom is obviously an easy question to answer on the surface: for myself, duh. But when I think about how hard I push myself, how many commitments I dedicate my time to and how I barely have a chance to smell the roses because I am drowning in the scent of coffee in an attempt to fight off sleep, I realize I need to evaluate who I am really doing all of this for, because I’m clearly not the one reaping the immediate benefits.

It’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this, as I read John Milton’s When I consider how my light is spent. Milton, who without question had a much harder time than I as he became blind at the age of 43, begged the question of whether God wanted him to work so hard despite his disability. When I actually Consider how my light is spent, however, I come to a different conclusion than Milton. Perhaps it is because I am 20 and not 43 with “half my days in this dark world and wide” but I cannot accept that despite my challenges I should give up and push myself less. “God doth not need either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve Him best,” Milton illuminates his feelings towards the reader by allowing the speaker to feel relieved by this command, releasing the blind, tired poet of his chains to draining work. The speaker is clear: per chi he works is God in When I consider how my light is spent. Milton, unlike me, knows who he is working for, and determines that even God does not need him to over extend himself.

Irony seems ever present now, as I work late into the night slaving over books, carefully composing emails and avoiding my planner as if ignoring it will fight off Monday for a little longer. So why do I work this hard if I don’t even know for whom I am working? I realize that per chi is a pretty important question to be answered. So I ponder: for my parents, seems like a good guess: as their hard work and dedication pays for my exorbitant tuition. However this leaves me unsatisfied, much like Elizabeth Gilberts’ search for her perfect word, I’m sure my vision isn’t derived from their nurturing entirely. My next guess is that per chi could possibly be answered by Loyola’s motto: men and women for others. I would like to believe that my compassion for the impoverished, the illiterate and the abused is what drives me to work so hard to attain a law degree; however, in reality with all of the problems in the world, will I really make a difference in these peoples’ lives?

So what is it that fuels my fire even when I feel the flame waning? I think, like Milton, it has to be faith. Not faith in a religious sense, but faith in humanity and faith in myself that despite the distractions and luxuries of leisure (such as going to bed before 3 a.m.) I am dedicated to this cause. It was faith that got Elizabeth Gilbert off the floor of her bathroom, and it was faith that drove Milton to ask God for relief. I am not sure exactly where my dedication and faith come from; perhaps I am still fueled by the memory of my realization that at nine my best friends’ bruises were not from soccer practice. Or perhaps my volunteer hours with children in urban education, but no matter how distracted or disheartened I currently am, I will not give up. It is faith that makes me realize no matter how large my goals, whether they be traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia during a middle aged divorce, or attempting to remain focused on the larger picture of serving others so far down the road, I will persevere.

So I ask you to ask yourself: for whom do you serve?

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