It was the best advice my 18 year old college freshman self had ever heard. It came from my honors english professor so I figured it had to be good and wise and … and well it was HONORS english. So EXTRA smart points for this type of advice.
Our professor told us that after we had completed our finals, turned in our final projects after a semester of reading more and writing more then we ever had in our academic lives…
that we should……
pull out a trashy novel,
open a giant bag of our favorite chips
and settle in for some good old fashioned fiction escapism.
It sounded lovely… reading for pleasure and not because I had too. And guilt free eating an entire bag of sour cream and cheddar potato chips ( guilt free – I mean my HONORS professor told me I SHOULD!)
It was a lovely evening. I still remember the crunch of the chips and the drama of the Danielle Steele love story. (don’t judge my teen reading choices) I fully embraced the advice I’d been given, happily ended my first semester of college and headed home for my 3 week Christmas break.
It wasn’t until after that blissful time at home, upon my return to my college dorm room that I realized I had only successfully completed ONE important task from my English professor. You see, before we were to enjoy the chips and the fiction we were to successfully complete a final exam AND turn in a final project.
I had stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG – studying and writing. We had a final exam and project due.
At the same time.
It was unreal.
I guess thats what happens when you say “YES” to the Honors School. ( Did I mention I was just barely admitted to this program… )
My dorm floor was a buzz with activity as we all happily greeted our new college friends and shared tales from our Christmas break. It was in the middle of all this joy that my world came crashing down. All it took was one simple flip of a paper binder to reveal a college co-ed’s worst night mare.
What to my wondering eyes did appear… Why my Honors English Project, the one due at the same time as my final exam, the one I had celebrated its completion with a bag of Lays and my Danielle Steele…yes the one… that had clearly spent vacation in my dorm room tucked neatly in my binder – Not in my professors brief case.
It was a bummer in the first degree.
It was an irreversible mistake. There was no way of proving I hadn’t actually written it over break, pretending like I had just left it at school. My professor agreed to read it and give it a grade so it would not be recorded as a big fat zero.
It was a gigantic deal.
This project was a major portion of my grade. My grades were important because my academic scholarship would only continue into the next semester if I proved I could actually perform on the college level.
I’ve told this story to my children a million times. Usually when they share a mistake they’ve made they think will ruin the rest of their lives. A low test score, a missed assignment, sleeping through their alarm. They have yet to out-story my college freshman snafu and the recounting it seems to give them perspective that at least they didn’t mess up as bad as mom.
In the 30 years since the Honors English Project debacle I have had other days that have left me feeling overwhelmed, speechless and wanting to smack my head in disbelief. Sometimes this comes as a result of my poor actions and others come due to the fact that we live in a crazy world with even crazier people. Today I listened to two friends process a stressful week that seemed to continue a trend of other stressful weeks. At the end of our conversation we didn’t have solutions but it sure did feel good to pause and recognize that it indeed can be hard when life or ourselves fail to meet the expectations we have. To feel the feelings, to laugh at the ways we wished we could respond but never would, and to recognize that despite looking like we have it all together…
most people you encounter have probably had a…
” Surprise… you never turned your paper in” moment in their recent past . We all just have our stuff don’t we???
And when I say ALL, I mean all. The people we love and the people we don’t. Everyone has a story and is living with challenges of which we many never know. How different my day would be if I looked at each person, believing they are doing the absolute best they can with the life they have been handed in that moment.
I’m not sure what kind of day you are enjoying,
as you read this post.
I hope its filled with met deadlines, overflowing cups and all the answers you are waiting for.
But if not…
I recommend a big bag of chips,
your favorite fiction novel…
and a big bowl of grace , generously poured over this day, and the truth that you have a God that meets you where you are, loves you in your mess and points you to his beautiful plan for your future.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13