I've been pretty busy lately. There were those school responsibilities, and then the worst Thanksgiving meal ever (I just had no time to prepare). Black Friday was the beginning of Christmas rush at the store, and then, suddenly, I was blindsided when school kicked into high gear. Presentations, and papers and portfolios and analysis. Goal writing. Reports. Tests. Reading and reading and more reading. Writing and writing and more writing. Studying and studying and more studying. I got even more behind at home. I began to stress about Christmas so much to be done, and no time to do it. To make matters even worse, there was 14 feet of snow, everywhere, and it was coming down at a rate of one inch every ten minutes. This went on for forty seven days, roughly the first half of December. (Do not argue with me. I'm in college. I know stuff.)
But then amazingly, I got through the days that would not end, and it was the last day of school. How did that happen? I was walking down the hall flipping through the last of my homework assignments. I'd picked them up after finishing the final. The teachers give you some very honest appraisals and I like that about them. On a paper I'd written about long term goals, Heather had written: "I appreciate your honesty, candor, and willingness to look at yourself. However, I want to tell you to be kind to yourself, allow mistakes, and to experience joy."
I thought about that as I headed down the hall to my next final. I've learned a lot about myself this semester. When I remember how badly I wanted those straight As the first semester, it makes me smile a little. By the time that I was finished with Anatomy and Physiology during summer session, I was darned pleased with my B. This fall, school work was still very important, but I also had a lot of other stuff going on. Even though I nearly OD'ed on school, I also knew that 'the other stuff' could not be ignored. That stuff brings me joy.
The next final was a blue book essay, and, boy, I do hate blue book essays. I do not write. I type, thank you very much. My thoughts flow rapidly, and they pour out of my brain and into my fingers and appear on a screen. And once the thoughts are there, I can rearrange things, and correct them, and change words, and emphasize things. Blue book essays are done the old fashioned way, with four or five pencils. You write those words. This means you have to think, organize your thoughts in your head and then (and only then) write them all down. Gaaaah! I wore out the points on two pencils and was well on the way to finishing off the third when I finished. Let's not even talk about the erasers I was wearing out. Not my finest work, to be sure, but it didn't matter. When I closed that blue book, there was joy.
I walked out of that classroom flipping through the essay I'd written the previous week. 9 pages with citations. Funny story there. Writing that essay was a killer. I must have begun it a dozen times, but it just did not flow. I could not make it right. I finally finished it two days before it was due, and printed it off with no small amount of relief. Who knew that going to bed was going to be such a mistake? I'd awakened in the middle of the night with the certainty that I could not turn that paper in. Long story short, the following day, I went to my class and then back to the library, to research yet another topic. I headed back to Warren to go to work and when I was done at 8:30, I came home and wrote for six and a half hours, an entire paper on the marginalization of men. I slept for three hours and then headed off to class. Later that afternoon, I presented that paper, and after that, I handed it over to the teacher. One week later, the drama of that day was still fresh in my mind. I was almost afraid to see my grade. Flipping to the back, I saw the neat writing of my teacher. "Great paper. A." Those words brought me joy.
I headed outdoors and across the tiny campus, walking through the heavy snow. It seemed scarcely possible, but my day was nearly over. I took the third final without even removing my coat, and I turned that test in. I walked back through the swirling snow to my car. I savored 2010's final trip home from school. Once again, there was joy.
I am sitting here in my pajamas. I had walked in the door and put my pajamas on shortly after 2. I thought, "You know, I can do whatever I want to do. Read a book, if I want to. Take a nap, if I want to. Write, if I want to. After a time, I felt like what I really wanted to do was sit down, plug in "A Christmas Story" and vegetate. And so I did, reading the paper and then doing a crossword puzzle.
I thought about my teachers, about new friends, about school. I thought about joy. I know the joy of being in school. I know the joy of discovering that I can do it, that I am doing it. Joy in reaping the rewards of my hard work. There's the joy of my job, of enjoying my coworkers, the pleasure in my customers. There's a joy in being busy, but there's also the joy of doing absolutely nothing. Joy is coming home from my last day of school. Joy is putting on my pajama pants because I'm not going to work. Joy is pouring myself a great glass of wine and toasting myself as Ralphie groans "Oh fuuuuuuuuuuudge!" in the background. I shut my eyes and took the time to experience it.
Debby Hornburg lives in Scandia and can be reached at email@example.com In the spirit of self discovery, let me mention that this snow is making me, umI don't knowwhat's the opposite of joy?
Merry Christmas everyone!