Prudence is the mother of all cardinal virtues. It’s the one you need in order to attain the others. Ralph Waldo Emerson described prudence as “the virtue of the senses”, and a “devotion to matter” that “asks but one question — Will it bake bread?” Merriam-Webster defines prudence as “the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.” Put simply, prudence is sensibility. I am the epitome of prudence, no doubt. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a prudent child and am now a prudent adult. Maybe it was the result of growing up in a Catholic household and attending a Catholic school. Maybe it was just genetics. Either way, prudence has stuck with me.
I spent my childhood making calculated decisions about things that I thought would affect my future, like studying really hard for that Colors spelling test in 1st grade that everyone else failed. I thought that knowing how to spell “purple” at age 7 was vital to becoming a successful student so I did it. I managed to become the BOOK IT queen that year and ate my fair share of Pizza Hut personal pizzas as a result. My parents and my teachers told me that reading was important so I read as many books as I could, eager to get ahead. A few years later, I was reading at an adult level. I was the only 4th grader in school reading Stephen King.
Throughout life I continued to strive to get ahead. I got nearly all A’s on my report card every year from 1st – 8th grade. I participated in the County Science Fair and later the District Science Fair when awarded a score of Superior. I won the school Spelling Bee and qualified to compete at the County level. I stayed in from recess to complete extra credit assignments or to study for an upcoming test. I wanted to be the best because from a very young age I knew that a) I wanted to go to college and b) that my parents couldn’t afford to send me. I was set on getting a scholarship and I just knew that everything I did back then would have a direct effect on what I could accomplish later on in life.
I had big dreams and I wasn’t about to let being a kid get in the way. I was willing to sacrifice aspects of my childhood in order to get a head start on adulthood if that’s what it took.
I thought that other kids who goofed off in class were idiots who would later regret it. I thought that kids who took study hall instead of an extra class in high school were wasting opportunities. I thought that not having a part-time job in high school was lazy. I thought that all of those things were preparing me for what was yet to come and that by doing them I would be way ahead of everyone else once I got there but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I went on to college, studied hard, made the Dean’s list, graduated with honors, earned an Associate’s Degree, then earn a Bachelor’s, and even considered a Master’s. I worked my way up the ladder and now hold a very secure full-time job with great benefits and comfortable pay. I’m married and own a home. I have a dog and a backyard that borders a park for when my future kids arrive. I’m ready for that life I worked so hard for to begin. I was so close to pushing Play and enjoying the fruits of my labors, when I was diagnosed with MS. Everything in life at that moment was paused and it hasn’t yet resumed.
It’s been about a year and a half since my health started to limit my abilities and not a single day goes by that I don’t feel some small form of regret about the things I have maybe missed out on for good. I’m 32 years old and in what should be the prime of my life, yet I’m bound by the terms of this disease that keep me cooped up in the house napping and trying to find ways to combat my inability to focus when I’m actually awake. Every decision that I have made over the course of my lifetime has been strategic, a result of weighing pros and cons, and based on facts and statistics, but MS is not something that I had factored into the equation. I guess I was naive or maybe I was just too busy planning for the future to even consider that something so life altering could happen to me.
Today I still exhibit characteristics of prudence with my practical nature and my resourcefulness but I am also learning to enjoy the little things in life, to watch the sunset, to take time to relax, and to consider what I want for once in my life. I can’t get back the time that I have lost and I’m not angry with myself for losing it because I never could have known that my life would veer off the beaten path, but I’m certainly more present than I’ve ever been in life and that’s all that I need right now.
Before making a decision I no longer ask myself “Will it bake bread?”, but rather, “Will it make me happy?” and that’s all that anyone can ask for in life these days.
Inspired by the Daily Post prompt: Epitome