I was in the class of life, or as I have come to know it, Suzanology 101. I graded all my own assignments, and I was a tough grader. It was impossible to cut class. It was possible to daydream away, but then I found myself repeating every class I was not fully present for. This was quite exhausting. Then I realized, since I was the principal, student, and head teacher, I could make some changes to enjoy the curriculum more.
First, I stopped grading on a curve. The moment I notice I am daydreaming about all my friends who are happily married and how their husbands must be rushing home with flowers in hand to whisk them away to a romantic surprise dinner, I stop. Comparing my life to some imaginary life of a friend is neither helpful nor true, and it keeps me from enjoying the splendor that surrounds me. The moment this lesson really hit home was the day I went to visit a close friend who had just given birth to her first child. Unexpectedly, the father became sick and had to leave the hospital to go home. I could tell this was a heart-wrenching decision and when they both asked me to stay overnight at the hospital, I was honored. I spent the next two nights being there, helping my friend and her newborn son begin their adventure together. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life, and I would not trade it for anything. Had I been in a different place with different responsibilities, I might have missed this gift.
Second, I stopped hoping other people would give me an A+ in my life. This lesson I learned from the CliffsNotes of a very wise friend. I was rattling on one day complaining about some task I had agreed to do, and he plainly asked, “Are you still doing things you don’t want to do?” He had mastered the art of saying “no” when that felt right to him. This may not seem like a great quality at first, but it is key to a healthy, happy life. I was always praised for being a team player in school, and I usually put the team’s needs before my own. This habit was what kept me playing ice hockey for two weeks in high school before I allowed myself to admit I was sick- really sick. When I finally went to the school nurse, I had strep, or as she put it, “The worst case of strep I had ever seen in 30 years of being a school nurse.” It was weeks before I felt strong again. I realize now that I hurt myself and the team far more by saying yes to practice when my whole body was screaming, “No!” I now pay close attention to my signals and what feels right to me.
Third, I fill my classroom with inspiration. I surround myself with inspiring books, people, art, music, and flowers. I feel what nourishes my soul, and I add more. Since this is a lifelong class, I also make sure to take summer vacations and to cherish the relationships I make along the way. I seek extra help when I need it, and I never study through lunch. I have also become much kinder to myself. I have done away with the grades because unlike many aspects of school, life is not always meant to be understood. It is meant to be experienced.