Kent_CarlsonIn his Easter vigil homily, Pope Francis discussed Jesus’ call to his disciples to return to Galilee. It symbolizes the return home and the return to one’s origins after a long journey. In the Christian faith, returning to Galilee follows the return of Jesus Christ. The early disciples were called to rediscover their baptism and what it meant in light of their journey with Jesus.

The more I thought about this call, the more I began to appreciate the three parts of everyone’s existence — the beginning, the journey and the end — and the different roles that each part plays. Whether we think about this in terms of one year, four years or even a lifetime, an acute understanding of the beginning helps to put the journey and the end in context.

The beginning of any story sets the stage for all that comes afterward. For students at Georgetown, the beginning reminds us ourselves as freshmen with both our flaws and our strengths. It serves as a starting point, the standard by which we can understand all that has changed and how it finally ends. The clearer our historical understanding of the beginning, the better we will be able to judge the journey and the end.

When we look back at the beginning, whether we talk about the start of freshman year or even this year, it can be hard to have an honest account. The journey shapes us not only in how we see the present, but also the past. With rose-colored glasses, we remember who we were, often pushing aside truth for the sake of sentiment. Through forgetfulness and self-deception, we erase parts of our past and use our present experience to fill in the blanks. We forget what truly brought us to Georgetown, how we handled a stressful situation or how we neglected a friendship.

Practicing this revisionist history, although natural, robs us of our ability to appreciate how we have truly changed. False understanding of the past allows us to pervert it in the future. For our own personal development, we must be honest with ourselves concerning how we feel now and how we felt in the past. Whether we document our thoughts or just share them with loved ones, we must take active steps to prepare ourselves to be candid about our stories.

There is a phrase that I have seen used to describe Georgetown University’s historical development: festina lente, Latin for “Make haste slowly.” In context, it describes how Georgetown, rooted in its traditions, manages to make great leaps forward while still holding on to that core Jesuit mission.

A place like Georgetown does not change quickly, but it must adapt. It adapted to teach the sciences; it adapted to admit women into the College, and it will continue to adapt in new and different ways. None of these changes, however, took place without great care and reflection on Georgetown’s history, values and purpose. It looked to its beginning in order to understand the end of each chapter in its history.

There is something about the phrase festina lente that should resonate with all of us. While change is inevitable, we should make the time to go back to the beginning — to remember our heritage and our past experiences as they affect the present and the future.

With the end of the year upon us, it is tempting to see how this year or these past four years have been significant. We cannot, however, truly understand what this journey means without first going back to the start in an honest way.

It is tempting to change quickly, to revolutionize, to charge forward. But take the time to pause and reflect. We can never forget to look back as we move forward.

Kent Carlson is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of COLLEGE ON A HILL this semester.

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