“Writer man!” I hear echoed jubilantly through the corridor. I know who it is but I hate looking around like I don’t know where I am or what I’m doing. Never look like you’re lacking self-awareness. That never comes off well.
“Teacher man,” I echo back. When the echoes converge we’ll know from the sounds where the other person is. I look up and turn to my left. A soft, well-groomed man with glasses stands smiling a few steps away from me. He always looks like he wants to wrap me in his arms and pat me gently on the back.
I always enjoy going back. I never thought I would. Most students never want to return to their alma mater. That’s understandable. Many people spend so much time there that it often feels pointless to return but I enjoy seeing the old faces.
“You look good,” he says. People sound surprised to hear those words come out of their mouths. I wonder why. Was I rumored to be in poor condition?
“So do you,” I add. It’s after this initial exchange of greetings that I begin to lose my balance in the conversation. The next question out of the other persons mouth is usually something along the line of: “how are things?” I’m not fond of that line of inquiry because if I wasn’t doing well I’d have let you know and if I was doing well I would probably have let you know that as well. I usually try to pre-empt the needless niceties if I can.
“Wanna have a seat?” I ask motioning toward a table just outside the Commons.
“Sure,” he says. His positive mood has always impressed me.
“I was sorry to hear about the break-up,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s been tough, but I’m trying to keep a positive attitude about things,” I assure him.
“That’s important,” he says. I nod my head in agreement. “What finally did it for you?”
“The last couple weeks,” I answer. “I just couldn’t handle it. It was like in a novel, you know? The delayed decoding and everything.”
“Conrad,” he answers. I nod my head.
“Not enough people talk about that,” he says in reflection.
Delayed decoding is summarized by Janet Grischy as a moment: “when we do not know what is going on, the reaction born in our minds may be utterly at odds with outer reality, although it is completely in tune with our interior state.” In short, something may happen to us but we don’t know how to process everything until things sink in.
“You didn’t sound very happy the last time I talked to you,” he added.
“I wasn’t and I realize that now,” I said. “Sometimes we need to take a step back from it all and realize where we are in relation to where we were.”
“It takes a strong mind to process all of that,” he says. I half expected him to retort with: “the force is strong with this one.”
“If I’m awake I’m thinking,” I responded. He laughed.
“That’s you in a nutshell,” he said. “You’ve got to remember that not everyone is okay with that though.” He was right.
“I always look at it as something beneficial,” I added.
“I’m sure there are some people who just want you to stop sometimes,” he said. “You know? Just sit back and take it in sometimes.”
“I’m a rather intense person,” I said and he nodded in agreement.
“But you’re so funny when you let your guard down, my god,” he said laughing.
“That’s my defense mechanism,” I said. “Always has been. I always needed to be the funny one so I’d avoid getting picked on.”
“It’s often those who make us laugh that hide the saddest feelings underneath it all,” he said. His words were always carefully chosen. He could have taught where I was going to go to school now if we had some sort of department that specialized in what he taught.
“Well, I don’t know what to make of it,” I said.
“What to make of her or the relationship?” He asked.
“A little of both,” I answered.
“You can’t find acceptance everywhere in life,” he said dryly. “We all want a resolution but it is amazing how sparsely resolution comes. Think about it. If you’re driving down the road and someone cuts you off you don’t get to go hunt him down you’ve got other things to do. If someone cuts in front of you at the grocery store there’s nothing you can do. Really think about it and I think you’ll find we rarely find resolution in anything.”
I sat there silently pondering the wisdom behind his words. It was shockingly sad to consider how little control we have or perhaps its how little control we take in our lives.
“What would you do?” I asked.
“What are your options really?” He asked. “You can take what you’ve got and try to learn from it but my guess is that you’ve already done that. You can try and figure her out but I think you’ve realized the futility in that. Sometimes we have to make our peace with the things in life we cannot change as much as we might want to do so.”
“It’s tough when you really care about someone though,” I added.
“I know it is,” he said. “It’s always going to be that way though and better to learn how to deal with that now when you’re young than to go through life fighting the same battle.”
I knew he was right. The problem was that as I sat there I hadn’t the foggiest idea how I could figure this thing out.
“I’ll tell you this,” he interjected. “I’m sure anyone who knows you has told you this but you’ve got to get it in your head and make sure it stays there. You’re a wonderful person. Everyone loves being around you. They always have. This is her loss. You’ve just got to figure out a way to not let this tear you down.”
I was once again taken by his optimism.
“What can I do?” I asked. I felt like deep down I had already given up. That’s when he sat forward in his chair and looked me in the eyes.
“Do you remember how we used to do goals?” He asked. I looked at him trying to think back to exactly what he was alluding to.
“You mean actually writing down goals?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered. “Sit down and write out three goals that you want to achieve in terms of getting over her and set a date for achieving them.”
This was actually rather remarkable advice.
“What kind of goals can I set?” I asked.
“Set firm goals that are to the point. Say you’ve got one thing that makes you think of her. Well, you’ve got to get over that hurdle,” he said. “Say something like: I’m going to start thinking about this in a positive way that has to do with this and then name something else that you’d like whatever you’re doing to relate to. You’ve just got to get the idea of her bringing you happiness out of your head because I can tell you right now that I’ve seen firsthand that she makes you miserable.”
That was quite the thing to say.
“Okay,” I said. “Well she was a crazy texter. I mean, she texted like no one I’ve ever seen. When I look down at my phone my heart sinks into my stomach.”
“Start thinking about positive things when you look at your phone then,” he said. “Don’t let her negativity define your attitude through the day. You can’t give her that kind of control over your life.”
As I began to think about what he was saying it became rather obvious what I needed to do. I needed to take the things that were bringing me down and find a way for them to raise me up. It was not something that would be easily accomplished but in order for me to move on it is something that I must accomplish. I will not soon forget the way we parted. He brought me in for a hug. It was more than a hug between two friends. He really held me. I could tell that he really wanted me to feel better and for a moment I thought: “you know what? I’m going to do this for all the people in my life who deserve to get a better me.” He deserved a better me. Everyone around me deserves a better me. The whole world deserves the best that we can put out there. It was at that moment I think that I truly began to heal and that is also the moment in which I felt myself lose a piece of myself in the process. What we are is not necessarily who we are meant to become and I realized that then and there. I didn’t like what she had turned me into and now I was ready to change that.