October 7, 2010

The Hardest Assignment I Ever Had...

Dr. K was my English professor my first quarter of college. He was a tall and gentle man, always helpful, and always willing to listen. I liked that about him. His was also my first class of my college career.

Imagine the situation. I’m two months into my 18th year, and I’ve just, three days before, moved over 2000 miles away from anything familiar. I know no one at this school, heck, I know no one in this state! Yet, there I sat, scared, shy, wondering if this whole "being on your own/forging your own way in the world" thing was worth it.

Dr. K opened class with these words. “Every day, I want you to journal 25 things that you’re thankful for.” Huh??? This is an English class, not a “Sentimental Journey through Your Psyche” seminar. What the heck? But, obediently I pulled out my notebook, turned to a clean page, dated it, and started the list.

I got as far as number one. Just the number. I didn’t have anything to write. I was homesick, I was scared; I didn’t feel grateful. I felt like all I ever wanted in life was to be home with my parents and siblings, to be in my bed, surrounded by my grandmother’s quilt, and hugging my dog. Instead, I was in the basement classroom of a performing arts building, in Minnesota, trying to figure out if I was old enough to be a grown up.

So, I stared at that number one. Stared and stared and stared. I heard one of my classmates ask, “Is this a weekly assignment?”

Dr. K answered, “No. Each day of class, you are to have 25 things on your list. And, not just the same thing repeated 25 times. You can do this, I know you can.” 25 things a day?! That’s 75 things per week (we had class 3 times a week). I didn’t think I could come up with 25 things for the year, let alone a day! “Oh, and I will be reading these,” Doc-the-crazy continued to say. Frustrated tears burned at the back of my eyes. “Can I have the same list, just repeat it each day?” I thought to myself. “I can even list the items in random order!” But, Dr. K had thought of that one, and cut me off at the pass.

“Do not come up with your top-25 list and then reorder it. I will catch on.” He smiled at us, as if he knew; he just KNEW that was what we were thinking. The evil, evil man. He continued, “As I previously stated, 25 different things each day. If you are truly thankful for something, then it can be repeated on different days. But, see how many other things you can come up with.” Man! I was thinking college would be tough because I had to wade through things like “existentialism,” not what I was grateful for! How many times could I write down “friends who love me (although they’re back home),” and “a roof over my head,” and “parent’s health” before he catches on?

I trudged through that first list. I wish I could say that I caught on pretty quickly, but it took me almost the whole quarter to get Dr. K’s message. Being thankful is a daily thing. It’s a choice. And, it’s about the little things. The big things we’re always thankful for. It’s the things like an alarm clock that miraculously goes off in time for your first day of work, even though you forgot to set it, a hot cup of coffee, an anonymous note of encouragement, warm socks, the sunrise, the way the lights play on the snow during Christmas. It’s a shoulder to cry on; it’s a phone call from an old friend; it’s spaghetti with mizthra cheese; it’s warm brownies and cold milk. It’s the tickle of whiskers and a warm body when you want to cry; it’s the smell of home.

I haven’t kept up with “Doc’s 25 Things” in the years after college. But, I remember his message almost daily. It’s a choice thing.


Anonymous said...

I like this Dr. K of yours!

April said...

Alrighty! Gonna write my four things I'm thankful for today:
1) This blog.
2) Being able to watch my friends thrive in life.
3) The phrase "So's yer face."
4) Waking up without bed-head. :o)

Post a Comment