Julia stared out into the empty space. It was still, silent, and cold. She collapsed on the bench and started sobbing. She just wanted to go home. No more explosions, no more animals chasing her, no more creepy ice men. She just wanted to be home.
She sat there sobbing for a long time. It began to grow dark. Someone walked up to her and spoke in a deep voice.
“Excuse me, but why are you crying?”
“Go away!” Julia said. She didn't want to deal with any more strange professors.
The man, who hadn't moved, spoke up again, “Were you here with your class for our Career Day?”
Julia looked up. It was an old man with kind eyes and a long, gray beard. He was dressed in colorful robes.
“It is a fine tradition our school has. Bringing in children, and inspiring them to pursue their dreams. I actually started it you know? Career day.”
“Yes, many, many years ago. Come along, I will take you to the campus security office. They will be able to find your class. I'm Bill by the way.”
As the two trudged through the snow, Bill asked, “So did you end up figuring out what you want to be when you grow up?”
Julia shook her head, “No, but I figured out what I don't want to be. I definitely do not want to be a philosopher or a field biologist or a film director.”
Bill chuckled, “That's very specific. Why is that?” Julia told him all that had happened to her that day, and when she finished, Bill smiled and said, “Looks like you've had quite the day.”
“Tell me about it. I am so ready to go home right now, but...”
“But I just feel bad that I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.”
“You know what Julia, that is perfectly alright.”
“Really. I want you to remember two things, Julia. First, your parents are likely going to pressure you to do what they want you to do, and while you should respect your parents, you have the freedom to make your own decisions. So do what you want to do. Follow your passions, because if you don't, you will look back at the end of your life and surely regret it.”
They arrived at a building near the entrance of the campus and Bill said, “Well, here we are.”
“What's the second thing?” Julia asked.
“The second thing?”
“You said I had to remember two things. The first was to follow my passions. What was the second thing?”
“Ah yes.” Bill looked Julia right in the eye and said, “The second thing is that your job does not define who you are. No matter what you end up doing as a profession, you will still be you.”
“My job doesn't define who I am.”
“That's right, take me for instance. I'm a priest. People often associate that with being boring, uptight, and legalistic. But in fact, I am none of those things. I am easygoing, fun, and open-minded. I am free to be myself even under the strict constraints of the priesthood. The point is that whatever job you end up doing, and I mean whatever job, you will always be you. No one can change that or take it away.”
Julia smiled and said, “Thank you so much” and then gave Bill a big hug.
“My pleasure,” Bill responded.
Julia walked up to the door, turned around and said, “Merry Christmas Bill.”
Bill smiled and said, “Merry Christmas Julia.”
Julia entered the building and walked up to the main window, where a female police officer was sitting. “May I help you?” she asked.
“Yes, I'm here with my class and I got lost.”
“Are you with Oakridge Middle School?”
“Alright, fortunately the bus will be arriving here soon, so just sit tight.”
Julia sat down in one of the chairs and stared at the wall, where there were dozens of plaques hung up. Each plaque had a face engraved on it.
“What are those?” Julia asked, pointing to the wall.
The police officer looked at the wall and answered, “Oh, that's our wall of fame. Only the most famous and influential professors get to have their faces put on that wall.”
Julia scanned the plaques, fixed her gaze on one of them and gasped. It was Donald, the philosophy professor. The plaque read:
Esteemed Professor of Philosophy 1889-1931
Julia turned to the police officer and said, “Excuse me, are these dates correct?”
The officer looked at the wall and said, “Yes. I believe so, I mean they should be. Why?”
“One of the plaques says that a professor died 80 years ago, but I saw him today.”
“Hmm..well let me check. What's his name?”
“Professor Donald Lee.”
“Donald Lee. Let me do a quick search online.” The officer typed and clicked on her computer, and after a few seconds, said, “Nope, everything is saying that Donald Lee died in 1933. Maybe you ran into someone who looked like him?”
Julia looked back at the wall, and that's when she noticed the other faces. Margaret Johnson, Professor of Field Biology, died 1967. Jeff Thompson, Professor of Film, died 1955. And then she saw Bill's face.
William James Cunningham
Esteemed Professor of Theology 1825-1836
Dean of the University 1836-1845
The door of the office opened. It was Mrs. Campbell. “Julia thank goodness! What happened?”
“I was playing hide and seek and came back and you guys were gone. Where were you?”
“They moved the lecture to another building at the last minute. I am so sorry. Come on, let's get you home.”
Julia got on the bus. The rest of her class was already seated. She went to the back and Tommy pulled her down next to her.
“Julia!” he said. “You're alive!” and then gave her a big kiss on the cheek.
Wiping her cheek, Julia said,“Geez Tommy, you don't have to be that excited to see me. Tell me though, what did I miss?”
“Nothing, absolutely nothing. A doctor spoke, and then a police officer, and then a chemist. It was pretty boring, as everyone expected. The snowball fight was the highlight of the day.”
Julia laughed, “It's a good thing I got lost then.”
The bus revved up and began to pull away from Saint Godric's. It had started to snow, and Julia looked through the back window, taking in a last glimpse of the campus. Squinting her eyes, and peering through the snowfall, she saw four figures standing by the school entrance, waving goodbye to her. She smiled and waved back.