Friday, January 23, 2009
Scene: Nondescript café, waiting for a friend. I was listening to Aimee Mann, absorbing the sights of speeding cars and people busily killing time. Between songs, I could overhear two women in the opposite booth.
“Maybe there’s something wrong with me that I can’t see.” said the first girl.
“Or maybe you just let your walls down too quickly. Walls are there for a reason, you know.” Ooh. Harsh.
“I shouldn’t have done half the things I did for that loser. And after everything I did, I still ended up exactly where I began: bitter and alone.” I felt bad for listening in but I couldn’t help it. There was a faint scent of smoke and broken hearts in the air.
“One day, you’ll find that one person who will shake you to your core.” Oh great. A dreamer. “’Till then, try to focus on a love that’s constant.”
At a time when I felt like there was nothing new left to learn, I got my first lesson that day. It’s funny because people always talk about how walls are bad and how it prohibits intimacy but we seldom hear about its positive effects. Yes, it keeps people out but sometimes, you meet people who need to stay out. I suppose I could’ve listened in some more on their conversation if I really wanted to know what horrible thing this guy did to her but the truth is I didn’t have to know to understand. We’ve all made mistakes like this in the past. All you can do when your walls start to crumble is build them back up. Hopefully, your new wall will be stronger and wider than the last and you’ll find yourself bigger, stronger and better.
My phone beeps and comes to life. Something’s come up and my friend’s going to be late. I was going to be late, too if I waited. Settling on a rain check, I picked up my stuff and left the two women still lost in conversation.
I arrived at work a little sweaty from walking. I needed some time by myself to think. I knew I was scheduled to take a test that day but every time I read the thirty page policy, my mind wandered elsewhere. I thought about movies I haven’t seen, people I’ve lost touch with, feelings and clothes that needed sorting. At work, I reminded myself repeatedly to study. In a space-out moment that felt like five seconds, I realized I was actually late for my test and I was still reading (nay staring) at the second page.
Think fast! There’s always a little PowerPoint presentation before the test. It’s really long but at least it would have everything I need to pass the test. I’ve passed all of the other policy certifications in the past. It’s been years since I last failed a test. What could go wrong?
I swear I watched that presentation like it was a premature baby in an incubator hanging on to sweet life but by the time the test started, it felt like the questions were in some alien language. I could only afford six mistakes if I wanted to pass. I finished the test two hours later with 13. To add to the humiliation, I was the first to fail in our department. I left the room in a hurry, stifling emotions that would not be silent.
I went back to the office, spoke to no one and tried to attract as little attention to myself as possible. I didn’t want to look sad. No one would ever know that I failed the darn test. Still, they read me like a book and I could see the sympathy in their eyes. I don’t want to talk about it. And so we didn’t.
I could take the easy road and blame my failure on fifty million things. I had too much on my plate. It’s been weeks since I last went to class. I’m still adjusting to the night shift. The questions were poorly written. This stupid policy had nothing to do with my job. The glare on my monitor was distracting. The other people were too noisy. I was really hungry. I didn’t get enough sleep. My coffee had too much cream. But if I were to be honest to myself, the blame was attributed to one simple fact: I did not study. And to think I said I had nothing new to learn. There I was with two lessons in one day. Life’s funny like that. Uneventful one day, surprising the next.
Although it’s so unlike me, I concede and agree that yes, we learn something new every day. Life’s full of little lessons and sometimes, we just have to fine-tune our antennas to pick up the raspy signal.
It’s 10AM. My body is calling for sleep. I sit idly, studying in the bright morning sunshine. Coffee in one hand, darn policy in the other, my left leg taps an irregular beat as I make sense of paragraphs, tables and flowcharts. For many people, the day has just begun. What lessons could life have in store for them today?