All good stories start at the beginning. The question, for a really deep story is to determine where the beginning actually is.
We could say that it started when I was driving home from a function last night, coming through the University of Alberta, and down a hill. I deliberately took the long way home, so that I could drive part of the route I used to take home from University every day.
We could say the story starts a few days ago, when the daughter of a colleague was attending orientation for her first year of university, and I was surprised to hear that she didn't go to the beer gardens. After all, what is the first week of university if not beero'clock?
Equally, we could say that the story starts in my first year of university.
We could say that the story does not so much start at all, but continues, and it picked up again a few months ago, when Mr. Spit and I faced some hard decisions.
I'm going to start the story with me in University, as long as we understand that it probably really doesn't start there. Or, maybe part of it starts there, and part of it starts a few months ago, and most of the words came to me as I drove home last night. The gist of the story is this: in my first year of university, I struggled to bridge the gap. I don't think this is particularly strange, I suspect many kids get to university and struggle to find their place.
And none of this would be especially remarkable, but I had never failed before. Oh, sure I wasn't such a stunning success at hiking or snowshoeing, but honestly, I had never failed anything. Academically I was a success (except for math, but we won't talk about that). I might not be Einstein, but I could learn enough to scrape a decent pass in Physics, Chemistry and Math.
In the rest of the subjects, I did more than well enough. Well enough to get early acceptance and a few scholarships. Well enough to get a great scholarship to McGill. (Which I didn't take, but that's another story)
I'm not sure what I expected, perhaps that University would be a continuation of high school, only with more people.
Most of you will not be particularly surprised at this, but I hope you will be compassionate when I tell you that I was. Most of you will not be shocked when I tell you that first year calculus is brutally hard, even when you take the extra tutoring, even when you take the calculus for dummies pre-class.
I will tell you that the University of Alberta requires you to take Calculus 114 to get into the faculty of business. And that I wanted into the faculty of business. I had great plans for what I was going to do. And it wasn't going to be an arts degree (do you want fries with that?)
And the University is remarkably intransigent on the subject of Calculus and business, and unless I passed that darn calculus course, I wasn't going to get into the faculty of business. And let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, I wasn't going to pass that calculus course. I tried. Twice. You can tell me that anyone can pass calculus, and I will tell you firmly that no, some of us never will. We will simply never get it.
Which left me, at the end of my first year of University, exhausted and overwhelmed, and utterly without a plan.
I didn't know what to do next. About the only course I was doing well at was anthropology. I did really well at it. Got top marks. And I met a friend, and we were at this Christian seminar, and I announced I was going to major in anthropology. (Oh, you can laugh. She did). And if this is the story of anything, it is the story of how Mrs. Spit does and does not handle failure, and change and ambiguity. The story is only a little about anthropology.
The problem, as the more observant of you will notice, is that I, like many others, do not do well when my path is unclear. When I can't see the road in front of me for miles and miles, I don't have a map, I don't have a destination, I don't do well. I'm purpose orientated.
And I can tell you all of that, at almost 31. At 31 I do not know myself perfectly (the work of an entire life time, that) but I know myself somewhat, and I know what I am good at, and what I am not good at. I know, at my core, who I am. I am self aware, I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I know what I am. I know who I am.
At 19, I do not think anyone can be held responsible for not knowing who and what they are. I do not think they can be held responsible for not handling the in-between places, the margins, the outliers well. And I don't think you can hold yourself responsible for not knowing that change is hard.
I thought about how I didn't take orientation when I talked to my co-worker. I grieved all I missed out on, while I tried to find my feet and catch up. I drove home last night, remembering a lost young woman, and I remembered what it felt like to be lost and confused, and about to major in anthropology because it's the only damn thing you are good at, and who cares if you are passionate about anthropology, you get good grades in it.
Remember when I told you I wasn't sure where the story began? I'm not sure where it ends either, except perhaps to say, 12 years later, I still don't like it when I don't have a map.