Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some of the Best Advice I Ever Received

It’s no secret to those who know me; I’m a typical “cancer”. When things get tough, I hide out in my shell, shuffle back and forth and worry myself to death. I freak out for a little bit (ok a lot) and carry on like an award winning Drama Queen – foot stamping, whining, wailing, and hysterics – the whole gambit. I know, really mature.

And then, usually, once I get that out of my system, I can listen to reason and formulate a plan.
The thing is, though, that I’m good at making “plans”; I just suck at following through. I’m good at collecting information. I can often see the big picture and all points of view around me, I can see where I want to go or what I want to do, I just have a hard time getting there. I get stuck in ruts… a lot. I think I’m getting better at getting out of them, though it still seems to be a difficult process for me.

Along the journey of my 30-mumble-something years, I’ve gotten to know and meet many wonderful, interesting people. I’ve received lots of advice – some good, some not so good, and had the chance to learn from many people’s experiences.

When I was 17, I had the good fortune to study abroad for a year. The transition to a different lifestyle/country/continent was not an easy one. I had a hard time adjusting and fitting in and struggled to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. Before I left, I was at the top of my class. I was a good student and generally a good kid, but was tangled up in a web of relationship weirdness, poor self image and highly intensified teenage angst.

And while it may seem like shipping me off to another country by myself for a whole year was an insane thing to do, it actuality it was the best thing that ever happened to me. One of the best things I CHOSE to do and am grateful that it was a choice that was available to me and I certainly understand the sacrifices of the many people who helped me get there and make it through that year.

I was able to gain some independence and learn some self reliance, find some humility, discover some inner strength and self respect. However, it took almost the whole year for me to get it together. I spent a lot of time in a state of “lost”. It was hard, but I know that that year helped me to become a better person and I’m sure it saved me in many ways.

While I was there, I took physics class at an all girls school (another huge adjustment) with a very outspoken woman (whom, in retrospect I’m sure was a lesbian – not that it matters, just an observation). She was hip and smart and sharp as a tack. She used to wear a badge that said “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”. At the time I thought that was hilarious. Ok, it still is funny.

I was struggling in her class, in most of my classes actually, and not because I wasn’t smart enough or didn’t pay attention. I was so caught up in myself – worrying about everything, feeling lonely, and lamenting the fact that it felt like I was wasting my time “studying” because none of my courses would transfer over when I returned home to my old high school. I couldn’t see why I should bother doing anything if it didn’t “count”. I was hiding in my shell, shuffling back and forth in the sand, wringing my hands and fretting.

This teacher was the first to call me on my wallowing. She held me back one day after class and told me plain as day that I was too smart to waste this whole year, she knew I could do the work, knew I understood the material and hell, maybe I’d even learn something that may not give me a grade but that might be USEFUL at some point in the “rest of my life” that would happen after high school. She told me to “Remove my digit from my anus and get on with my life. Live it, not wallow in it”.

At first, being the drama queen that I am, I pouted, sulked and was HIGHLY offended. How DARE anyone say that to me!? ME???!!! But then I realized she was right. I needed to stop wallowing, stop shuffling from side to side and get on with it already. It was the start of the turning point in my year abroad – it opened my eyes, made me braver and helped to put myself out there and try new things.

Years later, I value that advice more than ever. I’m learning that BALANCE is worrying enough to be cautious, informed enough to make good decisions whenever possible, but removing my digit from my anus so I can move forward and get things done.

So, if you hear a loud “popping” noise in the next few weeks, that’ll just be me, removing my pointer from my nether regions in order to get moving on a few things I’ve been dragging my heels on.

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