Packing Materials and Flashbacks.
I still couldn't fit the mold. My Mom still pokes at me about why the hell I didn't get the degree, and I know she'd never understand, so I don't try to explain. I guess they're a tight group that won't let just anybody in; I mean, really, they all loaded up to go to the lake 'cause somebody had a lake house and a sailboat, they all loaded up and went to some bar 'cause somebody played in a band. Nobody wanted to load up and come to the races when I bought my first Outlaw Stock. I just didn't fit the mold. The girl who had the highest grade in the whole program used to have all the parties and mix all the drinks and let us all sleep at her house afterward, she quit, just got sick of it all and quit. The girl who was always falling asleep in classes, she got a degree. The girl who always had gloves on because she was afraid to touch people, she got a degree. I, the girl who brought rollbar padding and zip-ties to a clinical rotation to save a patient's legs from the sharp parts of a power wheelchair, I did not make it outta there with a degree.
I didn't manage to fit the mold. I'm alright with that, except when My Mom brings it up over and over again. I have fun with what I do, I make enough money to pay my bills and I'm not stressed-out all the time, it's good enough for me.
Every now and then, I still think about the professor who "broke the news" to me that I wasn't good enough, because "not good enough" ended up being something I struggled with off and on through my twenties. She had to have a third party present in our meeting that day; the program director couldn't be there supposedly due to having to take her dog to the Vet. She wore a denim vest with worn places under her elbows; the white threads dirty and brown like she didn't realize it needed to be washed every once in a while. She told us about how we needed to "be adult learners," but she almost never made it to any class meeting on-time. One of the people who told me I wasn't good enough didn't even know enough to keep her own clothes clean -- that always helps me remember that good enough for me is good enough; I do have high standards for myself, I am good enough.
I do vividly remember one particular experience with that professor, I had a little flashback to it earlier this week.
After a string of break-in's around here, we ordered a motion-activated camera, which came in the mail. The cardboard box was just big enough to have lots of room, just small enough I could bring it back from the post office on my bike. Inside, the camera and matching memory card were cushioned with those "air pillow" strips of inflated plastic bags, the kind that always remind me of my one shining moment with that professor.
She had unpacked some sort of shipment in the lab office, and reused the box for something else, so she'd stuffed a bunch of those packing pillows into the wastebasket beside the office door. She kept trying to poke them into the half-full waste paper basket, and they kept squishing out because there were so many of them. Their fluffiness made them excellent for protecting things in shipping boxes, but it also made them very difficult to cram into a little trash can. She kept trying though, this supposedly educated silvery-haired adult just couldn't seem to figure out that every time she crammed some in, more spilled over the edge of the container. I watched for a little while, I have no idea how long I sat there and wondered just how much a degree meant, the kind of degree where you get to sign your name with letters after it, just how much could it mean if you have that much trouble with simple problem-solving?
The first pair of scissors my eyes landed on were the kind for cutting bandages, all chrome, thin loop handles, short little blades, with a safety knob on the bottom side. I quietly stepped over toward the trashcan and corresponding pile of packing pillows, and silently snipped a hole in each little pillow, allowing them to deflate and sink into the wastebasket, where they now took up almost no noticeable space.
She looked a little shocked; I'm not sure if it was at the simplicity of the solution to the problem, or the fact that I, a lowly student, had been the one to discover it.
I didn't get a degree, but I learned a lot about how people work.
I don't have nightmares anymore, but I do still remember her every time I unpack a box and find those air pillows.
I don't get to sign my name with letters after it, but I still manage to get things done.