This has happened to me twice in as many weeks. At some point in the murky past (which could be anything further back than a week), I apparently told some people (a former student and a current friend) that I would be HAPPY to look at a story each of them had written. NOTE: I really did quit offering to do this because of the time commitment and not wanting to let my friends down. Somehow I managed to forget my own rule, and I agreed to do this. Both of them delivered stories to me within the last two weeks.
Harumph. It’s mid-term week at the Arts Institute, I have a big collection of ICL students for this week, I am up to my neck in revisions on my novel, and I have some volunteer commitments in the next two weeks that I really can’t flake out on. At the same time, telling my friend and my student, “Can you give me until spring?” isn’t much of an option either.
So I went to the Metallica concert last night. Believe it or not, that helped.
Back to my dilemma. As I was sitting in my seat listening to one of the opening bands who really wasn’t very good, I kept asking myself, “What’s the lesson here?” Actually, I started by asking “How did I get myself into this?” but I decided that was the wrong approach. It doesn’t matter how it happened. What matters is that it did happen, and that I need now to determine how best to handle it. Thus the “What’s the lesson?” question.
At first, as I listened to the droning lead singer shout something that sounding like he was about to puke all over his microphone, I thought about this in terms of how to avoid this happening again. And then the weirdest thing happened. The howling singer made a noise that sounded like he had said, “How can you learn,” although – truthfully – it was hard to understand a word the man was screaming.
But those four words seemed pretty clear, and I sat for a moment and let them weave through my mind.
I thought in terms of my students. It is no exaggeration to say that I learn as much from them as they ever learn from me. The remind me of what it means to come at a task with an open mind, to be ready to receive information or insight. They teach me about never assuming you have learned all there is to know in any area. They put ideas and concepts together in unique and wonderful ways that leave me in awe of how the human mind works.
As the horrible band was leaving the stage, the lead singer kept shouting “Thank you. Thank you.” It dawned on me that maybe the reason these stories had come to me at this moment was that I needed them to. I had skimmed both of them very briefly, but hadn’t looked deep enough to see that there was something lying in wait for me. Instead of viewing these as an imposition, I needed to look at them as an opportunity to open my mind and see something unique.
Needless to say, I felt better about agreeing to look over these two pieces. I figured out when I would work them into my schedule and committed to responding to my friends within a few weeks rather than several months. The band still sucked, and I give them no credit for assistance. I heard what I needed to hear and the rest was up to me, with a little help from whatever source of inspiration you happen to believe in.
Oh – Metallica was awesome! This is the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen them in concert, and they never fail to give their all.
What’s the lesson? Whatever you choose to make it. For me, the lesson is to remember to be open minded and listening for the message.