Insights with Emily: You’re never irrelevant

By Emily Salerno-Oswald

I’ve been writing this column for a while, and at times I decide that I need to spice things up and write about something that I’ve never written about before. That is why the topic this week is “irrelevance”.

For this column as a whole, I try not to write too much about my own life. I usually only select limited experiences from my life as applicable examples and analogies for my readers.

My intention is to transmit wisdom I have gleaned through sharing small snippets of my life, but I never seek to go overboard and share my whole life story.

However, for this particular issue, I think it may be helpful to share a bit broader of a view of my life in order to better convey my message.

This year is my fifth year at Franciscan University. “Fifth-year senior”, “super senior”, “second senior year” or “graduating for real this time”… there are many ways to refer to it. Perhaps, “senior citizen” should also be added to the list, as my sophomore roommate definitely calls me that.

I’ve known for a while that it was going to take me five years to complete my undergraduate degree. With two majors and a minor, it was bound to take time, and when you add life’s curve-balls to the equation, college sometimes ends up taking longer than expected.

Having full knowledge of the need for this extra year and having willfully assented to adding it to my college plan, I began this year optimistically. I was glad to be here for some additional time.

However, I will admit that, at the beginning of this school year – after having watched so many of my friends graduate last year – I wasn’t quite sure what my role on campus would be.

I entered in with the enthusiastic belief that my role was to reach out to those who were younger than me in order to make their college experience smoother. I wanted to give back in the way that RAs and people older than me had done when I was just starting out.

That mission to reach out went very well for a while. I volunteered on the Orientation Team, helped lead an academic club, worked as a tutor and connected in many other ways to students younger than myself.

I even made some unexpected friends, and it didn’t matter that they were younger than me. I had so much fun with them, and they were able to help me just as much as I was able to help them!

However, as we are now over halfway through the semester, there are sometimes days when I find myself missing friends who were my own age. Not simply because they were my age, but because they were my “group”, the ones who were there for me through and through for so many years.

As I contemplate this, I think back to the beginning of the semester. As optimistic as I was, I had a lurking fear: Was I irrelevant? Did I really have a place at this school anymore, or had my time to contribute come and gone?

I worried my time of adventure here had passed and now the only reason I was still around was to help other people have their adventures (and of course… to complete my degree).

I was wrong. I remember expressing this concern to my mom, who told me that maybe I shouldn’t assume so quickly that my adventure is done.

Maybe, she suggested, my adventure was far from done, and God had much more in store for me. Perhaps, I would still be on an adventure this year, just in a different way than before.

My mom was right. I might not be surrounded by people my age anymore. I might not have a guaranteed group to sit with at the cafeteria. And, to the astonishment of the next generation, I might not have BeReal.

All of this might be the case, but I am nonetheless still very relevant. By “relevant” I don’t mean “with the times” or plugged into modern pop culture.

I also don’t mean cool and edgy, like the latest new trend. And I certainly don’t mean up-to-speed with technology.

What I do mean is that there is a purpose for me in the here and now, just as much as there ever was. My role might be different or it might look different than it did before, but my purpose is the same.

No matter what phase of life I’m in – no matter how young or how old – my purpose will stay the same. And I’ll always have purpose.

My purpose is to be a light – that is, to joyfully shine Christ’s light unto others. That is your purpose too, and no amount of time can take it away from you.

Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”