10 – 20 – 30

Tim thinks that by tagging me to identify where I was ten, twenty, and thirty years ago, he’ll gain some interesting context to support the reminiscences he’s seen here; I fear that my answers will strike someone with as varied and exotic a life as Tim’s as distinctly dull. Let’s see:

10 years ago, I was teaching here at Princeton Theological Seminary. Back then, my hair was much monger — well down my back, in a pony tail — but really, that’s about it. Margaret hadn’t begun her graduate studies; Nate, Si and Pip were all still at home; Jennifer and Juliet were probably both living with us (Jennifer’s coming to visit later this week); I was looking for a job, since my position at Princeton was non-tenurable. We loved Princeton back then, the town and the seminary students and my colleagues.

20 years ago, I was making the transition from my masters studies at Yale Divinity to my doctoral work at Duke. We had to leave Margartet’s beloved dog Pearl behind us (no dogs allowed in the only apartment we could track down); Nate was two, and Si was not yet a year old. I had served as day school chaplain at St. Thomas’s Day School (preaching every morning to a group that includes junior kindergardeners through sixth grade and their teachers puts a lot of mileage on, fast) and as Assisting Priest at Christ Church, New Haven; at Duke, I helped Earl Brill with the campus ministry, but mostly concentrated on my studies (I had a three-year grant, and needed to be employed full-time when it expired, so feed the family).

30 years ago, I was a college junior at Bowdoin. Now there are some stories to tell about my junior year! For the purposes of summary and discretion, let us simply indicate that I had experienced some heartbreak, some other sorts of stressful turbulence, I had started carrying around a coffee cup with me everywhere and filling it when empty, and — this will surprise you — more or less stopped eating and sleeping. I realized that I needed to cut out the caffeine, and after a couple of weeks could resume a more healthy regimen. I also had the disturbing realization, through a medical ethics class, that although I could win an argument on either side of a contested point, I didn’t really have any coherent principles to shape my sense of which position was right.

The next year, I met Margaret.

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