Wait and See
There I was, walking through the doors of Southeast of Saline for the thousandth time. Except on this day, I cringed at the thought of facing my class. Entering the library, my heart beat quickened and I tried to stand as confidently as I could. Here goes nothing. But when our librarian asked, “Can you talk with that?” I shrank back and mumbled out a “yes” even though I could talk just fine. With my classmates eyes glued to my new gear, I thought, “This is it. This is the start of life with headgear.” In addition to my headgear, my 3rd grade-self had super short hair and a pair of less-than-attractive glasses. You know how everyone has that time from grade school where you just wonder, “What happened?” You could say that was the year for me. I loathed my time in headgear. It was uncomfortable, annoying, and took a stab at my confidence. At eight years old, that was a difficult time for me. As I have continued to experience adversity in life, I have come to know a few ways to handle less-than-ideal situations, such as my time in headgear. Whether it be finding the positives in the negatives, seeking help from someone close, or learning to worry less and focus on the things I can change, finding the right solution is possible.
It was the night before my 2013 chapter banquet, when my friend Jim texted me about the situation he was in. Having left his official dress in the hotel at State CDEs, he was desperate to find another pair of black slacks. He had the crazy idea the he was going to wear my women’s black slacks. Since he was asking me, I knew he had no other options. As weird as the idea sounded, we showed up early to see if the pants would work. Jim leaves to try them on and comes back into the ag room wearing the pants. Who would have thought that we would happen to have the exact same waist size? But seeing as Jim is 5’7”, the pants were a little long. With some quick thinking, Jim jumps up onto the table and I hem up the pants with a few safety pins. Our team gave Jim a pretty hard time as we walked down to the cafeteria, even though you could barely notice the extra “fit and flare.”
The banquet itself went off without a hitch, and before long, it was time for closing ceremonies. I looked to Nicollette, “Madam Secretary, do you have a record of any further business which should now be transacted?” Unbeknownst to the rest of the officers, she did. I stepped back from the podium to give Nicollette the floor. Nicollette tried to suppress her laughter as she gathered the room’ attention. “Ladies and gentlemen, I do have one announcement before tonight’s festivities conclude. I would just like to announce that Jim is wearing lady pants.” Everyone in the room burst into laughter as we waited to see how Jim would react. Without hesitation, he rose from his seat and strutted to the front center of the room. In his classic voice, Jim stated, “Yea, I’m wearing lady pants, and they make my butt look good,” as he turned around and popped his hip for the crowd. The roomed rolled with laughter as we all applauded Jim’s performance.
Not only did Jim have to deal with us giving him a hard time about wearing lady pants, but he also had to decide how to react when he was called out in front of the entire banquet. Jim could have easily gotten upset about the awkward situation he was in, but instead he decided to play it off. This is a lesson that Jim figured out early in life: by learning to make the best out of negative moments, we can lighten the situation we are in. When we encounter those minor setbacks in life, we can often find ourselves in a better position if we just take a deep breath and roll with the punches. Maybe we took an embarrassing fall at track practice or forgot to zip the fly on our pants- sometimes it’s better to let go of those moments rather than spend time fretting over them. We shouldn’t let life’s minor moments get us down. We can keep our frustrations from building by putting the situation into perspective with a quick run to Sonic or by having a good laugh with a friend However, times will present themselves when it’s a little harder to laugh in the moment. For me, it was pretty hard to laugh off the hunk of metal called headgear wrapped around my head when it was the only thing I could think about, but there’s more than one way to handle our adversities.
On a late summer night after work, I decided to check a spot in town for the Salina River Festival Medallion Hunt. It was starting to get dark, but I knew it wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes before I would be headed home. After wandering the area, it started to get too dark to see so I went back to my car to leave and that’s when I realized my keys weren’t in my pocket. They were comfortably sitting on the seat of my car. I tried to break in myself and thought about just having someone just give me a ride home, but I knew that it was pointless. To make the situation worse, the key I had locked in my car was the spare because I couldn’t find my normal key that morning. I really didn’t want to call home at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night saying I was locked out of my car in a semi-sketchy part of Salina, but I knew I needed the help. I pulled out my phone and dialed home. The phone’s ringing sounded like nails on a chalkboard in the moment. When my mom finally answered, I did my best to explain the situation but I knew she wasn’t happy. It wasn’t a fun phone call to make, but I knew I was better off after asking my dad to come help. Soon he was on his way to break into my car which, after a little work and ingenuity, he accomplished.
I could have tried to muster through my car break-in alone but quickly realized the problem could be minimized if I just asked for help. But if you’re like me, asking for help isn’t the easiest thing to do. Whether I lock myself out of my apartment, struggle on a project, or take on more than I should, I usually try to tell myself I should just “grow up” and handle the problem myself or I feel like I’m a bother to others if I ask for help. When I went to my resident assistant to see if she could help me get back into my apartment, I felt like a nuisance to her day, but when I knocked on her door she was more than willing to help. Even in what feels like life’s smallest inconveniences, most people are willing to help us if we are just willing to ask.
In our society, it often seems like we are supposed to be completely self-dependent and handle everything ourselves rather than reach out for help. Why is it that we are afraid to ask for help but when someone else asks for our help, we are usually more than willing to assist? If we know we can’t go through something alone, we have to let go of whatever is holding us back from asking for help, whether it be pride, fear, or the thought that there is no one to ask.
Identify those people in your life that can be your “go-to” in different life struggles. When I need help with some fresh workshop ideas or need to talk through a rough day, I know my teammates are always there for me. Several times I question what my future holds for me, so I have advisors and teachers that I feel comfortable talking to. If we forget our official dress at CDEs, we might have to ask someone of the opposite sex to borrow their lady pants. No matter what problems we encounter in life, we have to understand that we are not expected to go through it all alone. So next time you find yourself needing a little, or a lot, of assistance, don’t be afraid to ask. You can be surprised how willing people are to help.
Several months ago, my dad started to realize he was having some difficulties with his right hand. Being the typical “manly dad,” going to the doctor wasn’t the first thing on his mind. When the situation was not getting any better, he finally went to get things checked out. The doctors ordered an MRI of his spine to figure out what was causing the loss of function in his hand. When the MRI results came in, the doctors had found the problem. A couple of bulging disks had completely cut-off some of the nerves along my dad’s spine. This was a surgery that this doctor had done several times. The bulging disks were fixed and the doctor said to expect almost immediate results. Time passed and my dad went back in for his follow-up appointment, but his hand didn’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, it actually seemed to be getting worse. In order to get a second opinion, the doctor sent my dad to the KU Medical Center in Kansas City. Their doctors ran more tests to try and pinpoint just what was going on. A few days after his appointment, I had to run home for my own doctor appointment. Afterwards, I went home for a few hours before I had to go back to Manhattan. That’s when my mom told me they had received the results from my dad’s tests at KU Med. My heart raced as she sat me down in the kitchen and told me that dad had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. I knew a little about the disease from the ALS ice bucket challenge last year and as my mom sat there explaining what the doctor’s said, it took my heart a few seconds to realize what my mind already knew. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement; therefore, voluntary muscle control and function is lost. Over the next few days, I tried my best to keep my mind off of the diagnosis, but all I could do was worry. I worried if my dad would see me graduate college. I worried if he would walk me down the aisle to the man of my dreams. I worried if my kids would get to know and remember the amazing man that my father is. All I could do is worry myself sick about what the future holds.
Then, I had a conversation with my friend Nicollette. After telling her the news and talking for a while, she said, “It might be hard to see it now, but this is going to make you a better daughter, sister, wife, and mother. It’s going to help you appreciate the time with your family even more than you already do.” That’s when it all clicked for me. I started to realize that while my worry was a natural thing to do, it only made the situation more difficult. I knew then that I just needed to take life day by day and the let future hold what it will.
Time can be wasted worrying about tomorrow, or we can spend it enjoying today. It’s obvious that this isn’t the easiest thing to do, but we can start to overcome that worry by accepting the things we cannot change and focusing on the ones we can. ALS currently has no cure and there is nothing I can do about that. On the contrary, I can do my best to go home as often as I can and enjoy the time spent with family.
We can focus on the items we have control over every day. If we have a class where we don’t click with the teacher, we can choose to have a better attitude rather than get bitter. Maybe our SAE isn’t going quite as well as we had hoped. While we can’t change the situation, we can create steps to tackle the difficulty faced. After we accept what we can’t change and focus on what we can, we begin to find comfort in the silver linings of our difficult situations. Losing a job can mean that we spend more time on schoolwork or sports. Having to round up loose livestock in the dead of night just provides us with one heck of a story to tell our friends the next morning. If we can worry less and take each day as it comes, we can regain control in almost any difficult situation.
We all encounter difficulties, big and small, in our lives, because life does not always go as we planned. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” While we can often feel hopeless or defeated in the moment, there are ways to help us get through those times. If we can worry less about the unchangeable, it will be easier to wait and see what the future holds. After we wait and see we can’t do it all alone, reach out for a helping hand. When we find ourselves wearing our own pair of “lady pants,” we may just need to have a few good laughs with friends as we wait and see how a situation will unfold. Worry less, find a helping hand, and be in the moment. We may not know what lies ahead, but we do know something great is down that road. Sometimes we just have to be willing to wait and see what our extraordinary destiny is. Better things are coming, have the faith to wait and see!