I've Got Theories

by Janelle A. Ruley | 1/22/98 6:00am

Forgive me for this digression from my normal theme, but this time I've got theories. I have this theory on timing.

My timing theory basically asserts that there are times in one's life when one is particularly open to someone or something, that there is a specific moment when you are most open to a person or an idea. At that particular moment someone or something fills your opening -- but only if you seize the opportunity. Things happen for a reason. And while I will not even attempt to ponder what this reason is, I will say that I respect it as a matter of course.

When something significant happens in one's life (even if it doesn't seem significant at the time), there is a reason behind it. There is a reason that events occur in the sequence that they do. Timing is everything: when a window of opportunity opens, it is a window that can only be filled at that time. My timing theory hinges on the combination of the right person, the right opening and a willingness to learn.

At the end of my 7th grade year, I decided to run for student government. I ran, was elected and then developed a rapport with my leadership advisor. She taught me about leadership, activities and students and opened my eyes to a world where I could make an impact through student government. She helped me to conceptualize my potential and the differences I could make through student government organizations. And I've been involved ever since. Had I decided not run or had I run earlier, I truly believe that student government would not have had the same impact on my life. That was the time when I was most open to student government.

Now you may be thinking that this is a maturity issue, not one of timing. But I believe that timing is the essence of maturity. We mature as we become more open to those people and things that impact us significantly. We mature as we learn to take advantage of openings.

The friendships I have, the close ones anyway, are similar to my student government experience (yes, this is where I'm getting to my point). There are times in my life when I am most open to learning from someone what they have to teach me. Once the person I was open to becomes assimilated into my life, that person usually stays there for a long time. The relationship is a strong one, built on mutual respect.

It was only after knowing her for four years that I was open to the person who has become the best friend of my life. Prior to that time I was unable to appreciate fully the person who she is and the friendship that we've developed. I think this is what solidified my theory. It is proven by the fact that I can know someone (or something) for awhile without fully appreciating its value in and impact on my life.

Another of my closest friends is someone I met in 7th grade (big year for me). I was not able to appreciate and understand all that he had to offer me until after we graduated from high school. Parents are another example of this. Only at a certain moment do we realize that they are independent individuals, just like us.

I am always amazed when I make a new, really good friend here at Dartmouth, that I could have possibly lived my life virtually right next door to him or her without ever having met him or her. And I'm amazed too at how fast my Dartmouth friendships develop and evolve.

But that's when I fall back on my theory. The reason I was able to live right beside someone who was later to become so instrumental in my life was that I was simply not yet open to what I was to learn from them. Those chance conversations that happen in dorm hallways or during lunch or over coffee or late at night are openings. Those games of Frisbee or soccer or football on the Green are openings. Those late night study sessions or parties or sledding or movies are openings.

Take advantage of the opportunities we have to meet a variety of people. Meet your friends' friends. Stay for an extra five minutes in Collis. Hang out in your dorm. Continue that BlitzMail conversation until 3 a.m.. Yes, things happen for a reason. And, yes, openings happen deliberately. But you have to first open yourself to these openings before they can impact you.