I received some major news a few weeks ago. You know how it feels when everything around you unexpectedly goes in slow motion and you're almost capable of doing a play-by-play analysis of what's getting shown to you? Yeah, kind of, sort of like that.
Afterwards, I go to my car, sit, and put my hands around the steering wheel as if I’m driving somewhere. Only, the key is not in ignition and I have no music or a podcast episode from WTF with Marc Maron coming out of the iPod. Fifteen minutes into it - even though I'm told it's fifteen minutes. It felt more like 15 seconds to me - I hear, “uhm, so, are we going somewhere or should we see if we can get pizza delivered in the parking lot?”
Funny. I know.
For some odd reason, my mind took me to my first semester as a freshman in college. I haven't really thought about that time since going through it. As a general rule, I tend to experience, file, and move on to the next thing. Anyway. I had a brutal schedule then. One that I had hand-picked myself. Naturally. The thing is, I have a knack for picking difficult scenarios and subsequently sticking with them and bringing them to fruition. It's a chronic condition, I guess. Some people spend their lives averting challenges, others welcome them with an unexplained and unrequired bravado. Color me the latter. Whoopty doo!
So, when most students would take between 12 to 15 credits, I would alternate between 18 to 22 credits. Most unnecessarily, by the way. I just wanted to see if I could push myself to a new limit and if I could still hold on to my full-ride scholarship while castigating myself with an impossible schedule. I know. Let it go. It’s my thing.
To illustrate my point, here’s my schedule as a first semester freshman.
English Writing: 8:00AM-8:50AM (apropos, I am categorically not a morning person.)
And, after a six-hour break:
Chances are, if I would go at it again, I’d most likely pick some hard scenario like this again. And since I didn't do all that shabbily the first time around, I'd dare make it even more challenging. I wish I were joking. At times, I wished I was one of those people who were happy being a 12-credit type of person. I could never pull that off, however. A certain gene pool and predisposition coupled with certain acquired behaviors proves to be incurable more often than not. Bottom line, some people take the easy or easier way out while others like detours or harder trails. It doesn’t mean that one camp is better and/or smarter than the other. It’s just diversity. I used to think, foolishly proudly, that the harder way was somehow more respectable. Turns out that's not true at all. Being happy with ease and a general lack of ambition is something I wish I could do. I bet life would be a total breeze. I doubt I'd lose track of time, holding on to my steering wheel while the ignition key is still on my lap if I were into 'easy.' Alas, I'm not.
But back to the schedule. I know I'll make the point eventually. The hardest thing about it (i.e., the schedule) was going from Basketball to Religion. I played basketball like I was a 6.2’ dude. And I’m a foot shorter than that. I played so hard all I wanted to do afterwards was take a long shower and do the unthinkable: take a nap. Instead, I’d gather my stuff and try to clean up as I ran even harder from the gym to the Humanities building where the Religion course took place. I was always panic-stricken when going to Religion. Ok, the real reason had to do with the seating chart, yes there was a seating chart for that class. The professor thought he could remember our faces better if we sat in the same place every day. Oh, there were close to 100 students in that auditorium, by the way. Insane man, I know.
In Religion, I was sitting in the middle of one of the back rows. That's the seat you get for being one of the last ones to walk in as you pull a Carl Lewis from gym class. I was smack dab in the middle. I tend to remember few details from people and events if I’m not too struck by either aesthetics and/or intelligence. Nothing much struck me in that class other than the fact that there were two redheads in there, a boy and a girl, and for some reason they were sitting respectively to my left and right. Yup, I was sitting between two bona fide redheads, a boy and a girl. I couldn’t get over the fact how enthralling I found their hair and their galaxy of freckles. They could have been related. They weren’t.
What occupied my mind then was the fear that I would continue to perspire as the professor taught about the historical context behind Leviticus. I couldn’t wait to go home and shower. Hard. Few things make me freak out. Not showering twice a day is one of them. I know. It’s my thing. Let it go. In Religion, I somehow felt some version of piety as I “suffered” in my tight but cushy seat while pursuing my education in the private university where people were more polite than those in Pleasantville and perfect strangers would say “hello” and “how are you?” to you. Ad nauseam.
For some odd reason, after my news, I felt exactly how I felt when sitting in Religion as I freaked out at the prospect of more sweat coming out of me as I had played with a kind of vigor I generally reserve for the airport as I'm always running to my gates trying to make my connections. I recognized the feeling immediately. I scratched my head metaphorically and literally. I wondered why I had to scratch my head and made a quick mental note re: changing shampoos. Then, metaphorically, I scratched my head again and wondered why, of all the thoughts my brain would have strung together, it decided to pick one that took me back to my freshman year.
In sum, I often wonder why I have such loyal tolerance for quotidianity and all its menial routines and overall uninterestingness. And every time I wonder about its strong presence, I am reminded of the function it plays. It's a bringer of stability and overall sanity. I like control. Control, for odd reasons, gets a bad rap. However, control is nothing to sneer at. It comes too naturally to some and very challengingly to others. While I have a naturally hyper nature which at times makes concentration difficult, thanks to learned control and discipline, much can get accomplished.
It's hard to get stuff done well when you are pulled in so many directions all of which beg for your attention. So, amid the frustration of nature, desire for focus needs to kick in. And it does. It says, I want to do a task at a time and I want to do them well. So, controlling one's nature is indispensable when it comes to accomplishment and productivity.
It turns out, it's also indispensable when it comes to dealing with a kind of novelty that puts well-tested quotidianity on its head and tells it to go spin.
And there you are, metaphorically sitting between two redheaded people, hoping your sweat won't get noticed.