Monday, August 27, 2018

The power of "could" (A.K.A Stop "shoulding" all over yourself.)

7th grade me, at the start of my educational decline.
Sometimes I feel really smart. Other times not so much.
I didn’t graduate from high school. I skipped classes, got bad grades, and hid behind humor. I got my GED two years later. I’ve gone to bits of college here and there but no degree. I’ve had jobs here and there throughout the years but no career.

For a long time I felt unsmart--stupid.
Writing has made me feel smart, made me realize I actually have something in my brain.
Most times I am okay, really. I understand that formal education doesn't translate directly to intelligence. I've met plenty of college graduations that can't think for themselves.
But, still, there are times when I feel dumb. And I HATE FEELING DUMB.
Case in point, a while ago I went on a job interview. I was nailing it. Eye contact, solid answers, confident smile. I had it in the bag.
Then, right in the middle and out of the blue, the interviewer says the worst possible thing could say, "We are going to have a math test."

Huh? First of all, what's this we? Is he going to take it with me? And second of all, a math test? Who gives a math test in an interview?

That guy does.
I felt sick. I never made it past Algebra 1 in school. Math is my kryptonite, right next to liquid eyeliner and cleaning the bathroom.
He smiles and says, “If you receive an invoice for $3248.56, which includes a tax of 0.917%, how much would the total of just the bill be?"
People. I froze.

I didn’t know how to do it. 
Not only was it a dumb question, but I felt like a dumb person. 
Time slowed down.
I stared at the calculator in my hand, then to him, then back down to my calculator. 
My mind was blank. Nothing. 
I punched some random numbers hoping the answer would magically appear, but nothing came.
I felt embarrassed, ashamed. Humiliated.

That wasn’t his intent. Numbers are a big part of the job.
I wanted to cry right there.
I really wanted to slide out of my chair and sneak out the door. Though, he may have noticed a skirt-clad woman doing the army crawl across the floor.
The was another gentleman on the interview panel. I glanced up at him, hoping he couldn't see me dying inside. 
My nearly tearing up eyes rested on the calculator in my hand one last time as I prepared myself for what I'd have to say next.
I looked up at the interviewer, breathed in courage, swallowed a huge slice of humble pie, and with a wide said, “I’m sorry. I can’t recall the specific formula. But that’s okay, because this is the perfect time for me to show you how honest I am when there is something I need help with, and what a fast learner I am as well.”
He laughed and offered to write the problem out for me. Once the equation was in front of me, the old brain kicked in and I knew how to solve it.
Now, I could stop here and talk about how we can take difficult moments and make something good out of them. Or I could talk about how our "control room"--that place we go in the time between what happens to us and how we respond, that I shared in my second book.

But I'm not. Not yet.

I wasn't thinking about any of that stuff. In fact, I cried the entire way home.

I’m 46. And I felt like a 15-year-old in high school again. Embarrassed. Stupid. Small.

And it stung.

The next day I received an email from the guy. He invited back for a second interview. His manager wanted to meet me.
I was stunned. I thought my embarrassingly obvious ineptitude had sealed my fate.

But it didn't.

I never found out why they wanted me back because I never went to the second interview. I took another job offer instead which, luckily, had me teaching special needs children--something I love doing that, luckily, doesn't require algebraic skills.

That moment in the interview, for me, was a seminal moment in my life. It was a moment I faced deep shame and regret and didn't give it power over me.

I took the power away from shame and regret.

I took the power and changed it into something good.

Even if I'd never been called back for another interview, I feel like I succeeded.

I still harbor some negative feelings about my educational past. I know I made mistakes. I wish I would have made better choices. But I cannot let regret keep me from progress.  You know the saying, "life is full of should-of-dones", right?

Well, I think I am tired of shoulding all over myself.

I loved that moment in the interview--the moment courage stepped past fear and doubt. The moment I could be confident when all the "evidence" proved otherwise. The moment I took control of who I was and want to be.

Yes, I should have taken school seriously. I should have had more confidence in myself. I should have gone to college after high school. I should have gotten my degeree.




See, shoulding on myself is easy.

But, I don't want to do that anymore. I need to stop shoulding all over myself. It stinks.

In that moment in the interview, I had to walk past should and grab hold of could.

I want to keep doing that.

I could go back to school now and get a degree. I could study worldly topics at home. Or I could simply realize I am really smart, even if I don't.




I like could. It's a nice word, filled with possibilities.


No regret or shame.


It's hope and choices and potential.

I could do so many wonderful things if I leave my should where it belongs: in the outhouse with the rest of the crap.

And I think I will.

1 comment:

kmlinford said...

you remind me of me! I have been there! I love this story! Thank you for writing it,and I think you are very very smart!

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