Seizing the moment is important
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Last Thursday I got up early, bathed and dressed the little ones, dropped off my Heron Pond students to school in their “Grinch” outfits in honor of Dr. Seuss week, and headed over to the Academy of Science and Design.
The moment of the student admission lottery had finally arrived.
I trudged into the building, full of hope and promise. The lottery was held at the back end of a study hall, where rows of expectant parents sat waiting in silence. The silence was broken repeatedly by my little cherubs, who decided in tandem at that moment to delve into the terrible twos.
I came prepared with a notebook to write down all the numbers, confident that it would be a short morning, with Aspen’s number drawn early. As the numbers churned by and the list grew longer, my heart began to sink. The stress of chasing the little ones in an attempt to keep them silent was only compounded by the stress of realizing that with each passing number, Aspen’s chance of getting into the charter school was fading fast. We finally stumbled out of the lottery at No. 126 out of 133 applicants.
They say everything happens for a reason, or it must be “God’s will.” Do they truly imagine God sitting upon his throne with a playbook, mapping out details? Do we seriously believe that children are born to drug addicts, yet denied to loving parents as part of God’s plan? Shall we accept that when we lose a job or our home goes into foreclosure it was destiny, when we are diagnosed with cancer it was our purpose, or when we lose a child it was “meant to be”?
I think not. I think life is filled with random chaos beyond our control, and that sometimes it really just stinks.
When bad things happen, we are led to believe this must be karma. Maybe we did not pray hard enough or attend church often enough. The ironic thing is that when things are going well, we rarely step back and thank the cosmic powers of the universe, or give any credit to God. We simply stride along in utter bliss, sprinkled with little doses of mediocrity and trivial mishaps. Life is what happens around us while we are busy dealing with the complications of living.
Life is complicated, the human spirit is constantly evolving, trying to figure out how to best survive and excel. Many of our reactions are conditioned, through a process of learned behavior, popular consensus and a need to make sense of it all. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Each New Year, many of us make a solemn oath to get in shape and lose weight. It rarely comes to fruition, though, because we have been conditioned to believe that a magic pill or a special product will do the work for us. We are accustomed to eating what we like, lounging as we please, and putting off what we should do today for a tomorrow that was never promised.
When the bumps in the road startle us, we pay closer attention. When our heart is set on something that does not come to fruition, it is hard not to question the powers that be, not to take it personally. We wonder why life appears so easy for the Joneses, without fully realizing that the Joneses have been peering in our windows wondering the very same thing about us.
There is a childhood story I recall about how our problems are never really quite as dire as they might appear. It involves all the people in the world making a great big circle. Each person is instructed to place all of their problems, worries and adversities into a ball and toss it into the center. Then everyone must grab another ball and take those problems instead. The theory is that we would all be frantically scrambling to get our own ball of troubles back.
The reality is that the happiest people in life are those who can adapt to life’s chaos, and create new dreams when the old ones come crashing to the ground. I was worried how Aspen would react to the news. Her upbeat attitude never once flinched. We took the news in stride. The reality is that some students might decide that a charter school is not right for them, some families might move away, some students might not be able to handle the increased workload. Aspen might indeed be offered a spot at some point in the not-so-distant future. Our public schools are strong, and she will excel wherever she ends up. Education is one example of truly getting out what you put in, one place where perhaps karma does have a purpose. For now, it is simply one less thing to worry about.
Her friends had been secretly plotting for her not to get into the charter school, as they did not want her to leave them. Aspen herself was quite conflicted over the prospect of missing the sixth-grade Nature’s Classroom camp. From Day One, I believed the best-case scenario would be to place her on the wait list, just close enough to the top that she would be able to attend Nature’s Camp, and then suddenly a slot would open for her. In the back of my mind a dream silently tugs at my consciousness to move our family to warmer climate one day, one without snow. Had she gotten into the charter school, perhaps this dream would fade.
Everything does not happen for a reason, but we humans do possess free will as well as the capacity to continually adapt and persevere, no matter what circumstances life presents us with. Just remember, the light at the end of the tunnel is not always a pot of gold. Occasionally, it might turn out to be a speeding train, so always be alert and adapt enough to fully seize the moment.