I did it!
Every once in a while someone comes up to me and says, “Man, I don’t know how you do it.”
“Do what?” is my screeched response.
Obviously whoever is speaking has failed to notice the cat hair pooling in the corners of the living room, the curious state of my bathroom baseboards, the creditors who leave progressively less-friendly messages on my answering machine. Seen from where I am standing, I usually feel like I am close to, if not successfully, failing at everything that I do.
This was particularly true when I was in school, I see now that I have been out of it for several weeks. For the last three and a half years my time was constantly pressed upon. Not so much by classes; as all university students know, classes themselves take up only fifteen or so hours out of every week. Fifteen hours! That’s it! But the homework – the constant aching press of homework … another story indeed.
As a history major, I usually had a number of readings to do each week, as well as research to do for any number of research papers. All the time, then, that I was not in class I spent brutally aware of all the work that I had to do. While playing with my children, cooking, cleaning the house, sleeping, or reading, I was silently getting increasingly anxious about the pile of homework pressing ever more upon me; while doing homework, I was crushingly aware of the time I was neither spending with my children nor attending to the cat hair.
Then I finished university. I finished. I didn’t fail! Suddenly all that pressure, that crippling blanket of all-I-am-failing-to-do lifted and I find myself floating through my days a relaxed and, frankly, new person. I feel like myself but a myself I’ve never been before. Today while driving to a meeting it suddenly hit me:
I went to university – I did an entire degree! – as a single parent to two children! They were both in hockey – I spent my weekends sitting in hockey rinks, driving to Victoria for games or Campbell River for games, responding to emails about surprise practices. And I did that. My children were five- and nine-years-old when I began university, and in the three and a half years that have passed, years that have seen them turn now into a nine- and thirteen-year-old, into the most lovely young women, our family relationship has become like a core of steel. We are a little triangle team, and that happened while I was going to school. My youngest daughter got a (unsurprising) high-functioning autism diagnosis while I was in university; I missed half my classes one semester out of going to all those doctor’s and assessment appointments. My youngest daughter got H1N1, I got MRSA , we’ve all gone through bouts of stomach flu. In short – life has happened while I was in university. Seen from here, one could argue I did do something after all. And while I was successful only because my children carry me and support me and are amazing, and my professors were tolerant and warm-hearted and encouraging, it is also true that were someone to say to me now, about my going to university, “I don’t know how you did it,” I would have to respond:
“Man, I have no idea how I did it, either.”
So for those of you who are feeling a little crushed under the weight of all that you have to do and all that you are not doing, know this: you are actually doing it. And soon you will look back and be amazed that you did it at all. But you did. You did it.