Do we ever really appreciate what we have while we have it?
I have been practicing what I preach for over a year now, in terms of being grateful. It’s not just something I say, or post on Facebook, but something I practice religiously, every day. It’s also not an accident, using the descriptor, “religiously”, its intentional. Gratitude and religion go hand and hand to me. Of all the things I state that I am grateful for every day, I attribute to God. Some people may just believe in a universal higher power, but I’m old school Baptist and believe that God is in the center of it all.
But when we don’t get something that we really want, despite how hard we have been trying, it’s not easy to continue to practice what we preach.
Let me set the stage…
Since June 1, I have been packing up my little back pack and attending a summer course for Chemistry. Not one, not two, but FOUR nights a week for THREE LONG hours each night — both Chemistry labs and lectures. I quite possibly could not hate anything with more fervor than I do this class.
I can scientifically now deduce that Chemistry sucks. I mean really sucks. At 16 when I took it in high school, it was terrible. At 45, it’s absolutely frightening. Not just am I taking it, at my age, I am taking the compressed summer version so we are talking 14 weeks’ worth of material, consolidated into 8.
Yesterday, I attended the 31st class – the next to very last. I had been hoping against hope that perhaps I had scored high enough in my previous tests, lab practicals and quizzes to be exempted from the Final Exam. The professor had told the class at the onset that students with an A average by the end of the class would be allowed to skip the final, cumulative exam in recognition of their outstanding work. Well my work hadn’t been outstanding, but it had been a solid “Really Good”. I had worked unbelievably hard, sacrificed countless fun summer activities with my friends, and forsaken anything that looked like a decent nights’ sleep for 2 months. I was due this exemption! I wanted it. And relying on my “practice what I preach” mentality, I set a laser focus the last 4 weeks of the class on getting an A.
At the start of class number 31, the Professor, who is probably the most gentle, kindest, teacher I have ever worked began the class with an announcement. He reminded us that in order to be exempted a student had to have achieved a 93 average thus far, and four students had accomplished this goal. He slowly (really slowly) began to read off the names. In my head, I had been calculating my grade all semester long and knew it wasn’t an A, but in my heart of hearts I believed in the power of positive thinking and “The Secret” and I visualized hearing my name and doing an inappropriate happy dance and perhaps victory lap around the classroom.
…The first person is…Madison Smartypants (gasp of surprise…clap, clap, clap, clap…)
…The second student is…Ashley Snottygirl (smirk of “I knew it all along”…clap, clap, clap, clap….)
Next is…Haley Knowitall (brief head nod….clap, clap, clap, clap…)
And finally our last student exempted is
Joanne Oldladyinclass (squeal of delight…..clap, clap, clap, clap….)
In the words of Florida Evans from Good Times, I mentally said, “DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!!”
I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t clap for anyone. As evidenced by my decision to do a victory lap if I had been called, I am a terrible winner and a worse loser. I realize this is a character flaw of which I need to work at. When the last name called was the other “old lady” in the class and not me, I was just pissed. I knew I shouldn’t be, but did I tell you how much I really, really, really wanted to be exempted and how much I really, really, really think Chemistry sucks. Yes, I am certain I did.
With the reading of the names, the Fantastic Four, left the class without so much as a backward glance at the rest of us. I could almost hear them collectively say, “see you suckers later”, under their breaths, as they headed back to dinners with friends, beachside barbecues, and pool parties. Summers in Connecticut don’t last long, so you have to take advantage of every single sunny, gorgeous day we get and make the most of it. Those four had just received what I would consider the equivalent of the Chocolate Factory golden ticket. Damn them!
For the rest of us losers, Test 3 was returned to us with our score for the test as well as the score for the semester to date on the last page. I had received an 80 on the test and an 83 for the semester. Even getting a perfect score of 100 on the final exam would be too little, too late. Not only wasn’t I exempted but there was no possible way of getting an A in this class. I was disappointed. I knew I should be grateful for the B. There was no shame in a B, at all, especially not given the complexity of the topic and the compressed timeline, and my graying brain cells. Even though the professor let us leave early to study at home, I walked out head hung low and wishing I knew where the Fantastic Four were partying so I could literally let the air out of their tires. Let’s see how much you know about pressure and volume now, smartie girls.
Resisting the urge to end the semester with a felony criminal record, I instead, went to find any one of my friends which I had been neglecting to see if they could commiserate with me over a glass of wine and greasy food. I found one and proceeded to tell her my story of woe over chicken enchiladas and too warm Cabernet. As any good friend would do, she listened and drank and drank and listened. Finally at the end, she said, “so can we talk about my problems now, because this doesn’t seem all that bad?” Correctly she summarized that with a B, even if I failed the final, I would still walk away with a high C. Leave it to your friends to tell you, you’re being a baby without saying it in so many words. So naturally, I listened to her story of woe and drank and listened and listened and drank. Frankly, her issue put my issue to shame. After a quick hug and a mutual pat on the back, we parted ways for home.
I was grateful. Life for me, has actually gotten so good lately, that I was wondering, am I on some kind of a roll that has to end? I’m happier than I have been in years, work and personal life are not just satisfying they are wonderful and full of great potential, and financially I may not be a millionaire but I don’t worry about money – what more could I want. And that’s when it hit me, nothing. The secret to being grateful, isn’t that you get everything that you always ask for it’s that you deserve everything you get. To be honest, I probably didn’t deserve an A. I could have done more and worked a little harder but I made some conscious decisions over the past two months at times not to. The B I was getting from an academic standpoint is exactly what I deserved. I also started thinking that I needed to view gratitude from a sum of the whole, not as a collection of the few. What I mean is that I was so hyper focused on getting a letter grade of A in this one class, but what I needed was something more. What I really needed from Chemistry was to do well, understand the material, and leave better, more confident than I walked in. I did do that, I actually conquered Chemistry and the fear I had when I walked in the first day was long gone. Each time I do that in any challenge it makes me more confident for the next unknown that I have to face. In terms of succeeding in Chemistry, I had gotten an A in the bigger picture of what I really needed from this class, not the one that I had thought.
I still have at least 6 more classes (I think) before I finish my undergraduate Bachelor’s degree. I have been plugging away every semester taking no less than 2 classes a semester non-stop. I don’t get a chance to blog as much as I used to between work, home life and classes but I’m still in it to win it! The pursuit of my degree continues and I can’t wait to report to all of you in larger than life bold letters that I AM FINISHED! I hope I can come up with a more clever blog title than that; perhaps I will post a video of me doing a victory lap around the campus. Either way I will be grateful to have shared the journey with each of you.