Sunday, October 14, 2012

On Stumbling

My go-to anxiety dream is that I'm a panicking undergraduate who just realized I forgot to take a class for an entire quarter.  I've felt this panic in a real way before.  It was my very last class of my very last day at Western before graduating.  I was sitting at my desk feeling all sorts of excited and sentimental and generalized 22 year old craziness.  I was there.  About to be done and moving on into a life that I had no plan for.  That's an overwhelming and rocky place for someone who likes to have a plan, and I was shaking in my boots with excitement and fear. 

The professor walked in and gave a come hither gesture with his hand, and everyone but me responded by opening up their notebooks and pulling out a paper.  I was paralyzed in my seat.  What were they handing in?  How could this happen to me?  How could I have not written my very last paper, due for my very last class, on my very last day????  I don't know what I looked like, but every drop of panic must have been readable on my face.  My professor walked up to me, picked up my messenger bag from the floor, handed it to me and said, "you've got until midnight." 

I dashed out of class and landed in a computer lab that contained my frantic writing self until 11:59 p.m.  I blasted out a 15 page essay like a machine with nothing but coffee, adrenaline and shame fueling me.  My professor emailed me early the next morning.  I remember what he wrote, my fledgling self with no idea what she wanted or deserved from life.  "Andrea, you don't deserve an A but you've earned an A.  This is one of the best student essays I've received.  Sometimes it takes a big stumble to realize what you're made of." 

I have a timeline of stumbles to peer back on and ruminate over.  But when I scratch their surface, dig at their roots, pull their weeds, I start to see their sunny side.  Their momentum for a life better lived.

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