go . . . and grow

May 13, 2018

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As school ended on Friday afternoon, I was running around to talk to parents and kids about overdue books and, coming back to make a beeline for the bookshelf, on a missing book “scavenger hunt,” I looked up to see a student waiting by my desk. One of my most considerate teens, she was hesitant, fidgeting a bit before asking, “Um, are you busy right now . . . could I maybe talk to you for a minute?” I teased her a bit, “Ooh, sounds so serious!,” but instantly regretted it when I saw the expression on her face. She was clearly agitated. I sat down and waited for her to begin. “Um, Miss A said I should ask you about my transcript . . .” She sighed then and blurted out that she had just found out she would not be eligible for valedictorian because of her online class not being on schedule. My heart sank when I realized that, in this case, I had no good news for her. My hands were tied by the credit requirements of the school, and in this case there was no way to get around the fact that her slow pace for this online course would keep her from having the necessary marks for an award. Her grades were excellent, but she had been pouring so much time into the work that there was no way for it to be done in time for graduation.
She started to cry and, between sniffles, said, “I’ve been wanting this for so long.” Hugging her, I looked her in the eyes and said, “I know. I’m so sorry . . . but it’s not your fault. You know that, right? You did the best you could.”
“But it wasn’t good enough!” she blurted out, with a twinge of anger.
In that moment, I realized that I was going to need to tell her what I had spent the day telling myself.
“Yes, it was!” I began. “It WAS good enough! Sometimes you can do everything right but not get what you think you need. And, sometimes, what you think you need is not really what you need . . . only the hard part is that it can take years to learn what you really needed instead. And you’re gonna have this happen again, I’m afraid. I know. I’m old now, and it still happens to me!”
She smiled at this and started to try to tell me I wasn’t old. I interrupted her to continue.
“Truthfully, it happened to me just yesterday. I spent much of today in a dark funk of disappointment because someone told me that I couldn’t have what I’d been wanting. I thought I knew what I needed but know now that if a door closes that means it wasn’t the best after all. There’s something better, and I just can’t see that yet.”
She started to cry again, and told me that, unusually, considering her habit of staying late for extra study sessions and after-school activities, she was actually going home today.
“Good,” I said. “Now go do something fun. Go play.”
She smiled. “I’ll try,” she said, giving me another hug before lifting her backpack over her shoulder and walking out.
Yes, I said to myself. Like I said . . . like, go pick one of those flowers your husband has magically made grow for you, against all odds—put a bloom on the table for no other reason than to smile at its beauty.

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One Response to “go . . . and grow”

  1. Dan Elyea said

    The other side of that coin is: Winston S. Churchill — ‘It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.’ Sounds a little harsh, but in some circumstances is necessary. Finding the balance, the perception to identify what a particular situation call for . . .

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