Earlier this summer on Father's Day, I coerced my dear friend Lisa to letting Shay, Lucas and I join her and some friends on a rafting trip down the Swirly Canyon run on the Payette River. I didn't tell Shay or Lucas what we were doing, because they're not the adventurous sort and white water rafting would send up multitudes of red flags blaring "NOT SAFE! NOT SAFE! STAY HOME!" Lisa assured me that Swirly Canyon was a super mellow run, and she was right. It's not too swift and there is nothing that really constitutes a rapid on the stretch. The excitement comes from the beauty of the scenery more than the action of the river, and for that reason it was an exciting trip indeed. Steep canyon walls flowing with the bends in the river, tall with pine trees and rock formations, the occasional hot spring making friends with the cold mountain water. We spotted a good bank to sit on for lunch and Lisa navigated the boat over to it. Always wanting to be helpful (as well as wanting to show my boys what an expert I am in all things outdoors), once the boat was in the shallows I hopped out to help pull it in. Rather than landing on the sand I was expecting, I jumped straight into a dip in the bank that dropped about five feet. I'm 5'3". It was a cold and shocking surprise to find myself fully immersed in the river. "HOLY SHIT!" I screamed, while the kind natured members of our rafting party peed themselves with laughter. Shay, still laughing later that day on the drive home, said that he really enjoyed the rafting, but the whole day was worth it just to see the look on my face when I fell in that damn hole.
Similarly, just the other day I was celebrating my older sister Andrea's 40th birthday with her, my younger sister Kate, and our families at a local swimming pool. I adore my nieces and nephews, and want them to look at me with the same adoration and love that I have for my own aunts. Every time I see them I smother them with hugs and kisses and shake them gently whispering in their little ears, "I'm your favorite aunt. No one will ever love you like I do!" until they beg me to let them go and they run far away from me. Olive, my youngest niece who is a few months shy of turning two years old, isn't old enough to see me as a creep yet. Taking advantage of this, I grabbed her hand and led her with the confidence of the best aunt in the world to the kiddie pool. "Come on, Olive!" I encouraged. "This will be so fun!" I haven't been in a kiddie pool in a while, and for some reason I was under the impression that it would only have like six inches of water. For the second time this summer, I put my foot in the water expecting one thing, but quickly found myself tumbling in because rather than six inches, it was a couple feet deep. As I fell in, I saw the look of horror on Olive's face as she gripped my hand harder and I pulled her in with me. I saw this moment in slow motion, as I heard my husband yell at me, "What the hell are you doing?" and my sister Andrea start to cackle. I swooped up baby Olive who was shocked and crying and looking for another adult to rescue her from me. Her dad came to her aid, shaking with laughter. On the side of the pool my sister, husband, and teenage niece were losing their shit and getting side aches, laughing even more as I mustered what little dignity I had (which wasn't much--remember, I'm a Badger sister trying to wear a fat-kini with confidence at a public pool. The level of shame I was already experiencing was pretty damn high) and clambered out of the pool. Olive eventually forgave me, and Andrea thanked me for one of the best birthday presents she could receive: witnessing my utter clumsiness and humiliation, a gift that will surely keep on giving for years.
These are just a couple of examples from this summer, but I have a lifetime of stories about me jumping in without consideration for the consequence. My denseness when it comes to not thinking things through is pretty impressive. Maybe my frontal cortex didn't fully develop? It's hard to tell. But, with the shock, disappointment, and embarrassment that comes with these moments, there's a level of satisfaction that comes with the slap stick response of folly, and the hard-to-swallow medicine of humility. My experience with school has not been unlike this. I had no idea the depths I was jumping into. I knew it would be difficult, but I mistook the surface level difficulties (time management, paying for tuition, those sorts of things) for the tough stuff, when really it would be something far greater than that. Realizing how old I was, for one. Thinking on a level that no one has asked me to for years. Struggling with big ideas and learning how to convert them to a legible essay that someone would want to read. Adapting to technology, to cultural shifts, to cultivating relationships with a younger generation. Deep water, my friends, that has been humiliating at times, but ultimately rewarding.
I write all of this with the anticipation of starting my final semester in just over a week. My days as an undergrad are numbered, and I'm finding this realization to be bittersweet. What will happen to me when I'm done? I've grown so accustomed to having every moment of my day accounted for. Is my career going to explode because I have a degree? Not likely, but I'm not sure that's why I went back to school anyway--I can't remember for certain. There are only two things I know for sure: 1) my student debt significantly increased over the last two years, and I'll probably have to pay that back and 2) what I was intending to be an easy step into unknown waters turned out to be a shockingly deep experience, and short of being a mom to Lucas and working so damn hard to make my marriage magic this is the greatest thing I've ever done with my life.
I miss baking and I miss writing my blog and I miss seeing my friends on a regular basis. I do. I look forward to brining all of these things back into my regular daily life. But I don't for one second regret the time I've taken to treat myself to an education worth having. I've met some really amazing people, have had some of the BEST professors, and have graciously been reminded that I'm not always just falling into pools (or on trails, or up stairs, or in parking lots for no reason--I can't believe how often I fall), but sometimes I write something that's pretty okay, or say something that resonates on an intellectual level, or I get an "A" on an assignment that seemed impossible initially.
I am, without question, a klutz. But I'll be damned if I'm not a smart klutz. Laugh away, all you spectators. This gal is going to fall into something great.