When I walked into class today, I was very nervous. My stomach was turning because my name hadn’t been on the final list of approved students at the main door. Had I not been accepted? For someone who doesn’t know me, I hyperventilate at the thought of getting caught breaking a rule; not social rules, I mean like “It’s up on that poster” kind of rule. I don’t know why. It’s not because I’m a good person, it’s because physically, I simply cannot do it. I get nervous, anxious, I feel light headed. The whole “I didn’t get the lead in the play?!” tantrum, it happens to me. I die.
Miraculously, my desire to take the class was greater than my panic mode, so I gave myself a pep talk when I entered the class. I was going to shut my mouth, nod at any random name, and sit through the heart attack. So I walk in, the projector is already on, I’m nervous (because if they call attendance, I will definitely faint) but I sit down and begin to listen to the lecture on Edgar Allen Poe.
I was fixated on the professor for so long that it wasn’t until commentary began that I started to look around. Ethnic headbands, everyone with a journal in hand, pencils all around, everyone tugging on to some novel they were reading while waiting for the class, I even saw a couple Ubuntu stickers. Suddenly, I began to feel a little less nervous. A poor man’s East Village? I’ll take it! There was depth in the arguments and comments being thrown across the room. Some of the details being shared of Poe’s life even felt intimate. It was beautiful and a part of me began to feel at home.
Now, if you’ve ever been in a room full of writers, you’ll know that well—they don’t shut up. We hear, we process, we seek evidence, and form an opinion. And that opinion was born to be shared, my friend. So there I was in a room full of bright people who would—frankly, not shut up. To top things off, I had an Eager Sally sitting in front of me. You know the guy I’m talking about. The guy you hated in high school; the guy who doesn’t raise his hand, he SHAKES it; because in his mind, the teacher did not see him shaking like a propeller in this bright-as-day classroom. No, you’re right, he definitely didn’t see you. Keep flapping, pal.
Anyway, I focused on their arguments as each spoke. I felt truly blessed to be in a room full of people that I had so much to learn from. I felt a bit short in material considering the amount of information that was being thrown around so naturally. But suddenly, a debate began over Poe’s methods of composition. I heard both out. Ok, one guy was going for a mathematical approach, then came the other guy. Hmmm, okay. Nicely done… right? Yea, no. It kept going and on and on. Eager Sally wasn’t giving up. Holy Mother of… someone please smack this guy. But they were throwing big theories and words around, so a part of me, though annoyed, was still listening and very quiet. And suddenly I got so annoyed that I did the unthinkable—I raised my hand.
I have always been the quiet one in class and I realized that it never got me anywhere. This was going to be my positive moment for the day. This was going to make me feel something and I was going to risk it; even if it was not the brightest thing to say.
The class was silent. The teacher called me out immediately and waited. “I agree that his process is mathematical, but not in his method of….”
I said my comment and sat back. The silence that followed was my own version of the wait for the last rose on The Bachelor. Ok, I’m sure it was only .05 seconds, but to me, it was kind of excruciating. Until…”Exactly,” said the professor and went on to support my opinion with a quote by some famous author. No, I was not listening to the author, I was in still in shock from her “exactly.” My brain was busy adding musical notes to her response.
As she finished her quote, I noted that both Eager Sally and his opposer had both nodded in approval of my remark. I had found the middle ground between their two points. I sat back and took a deep breath. Immediately, I began to feel more confident in my chair. I had changed something. I had injected my presence into the classroom and it made me feel worthy of being there. I had activated something. A part of me had begun making me feel “out of place,” and my participation had removed that.
Do your 5 minutes of something different. Do them. Trust me. It’ll change something and the exciting thing is that you won’t know what it is until you do it.
If you want your brain to think a different way, you gotta take a different path home.
Surviving heart attacks, one at a time,