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July 22, 2012

Damn Good Advice; A History Lesson

By in Culture

Summer is proving to be a bit of a challenge for Hypenotic’s crack (or cracked?) team of bloggers. In a previous post I noted that when it comes to blog posts, “focus breeds discipline.”

To that end I’m kicking off a series that Barry, Lionel, Rick, Chris, Collin & Amanda will run with in the following weeks (hear that gang?) It’s called “Damn Good Advice”

Here’s the idea; Somehow or other we’ve all ended up at a values-based enterprise where doing good matters most. How did we get here? This series is intended to give a brief glimpse into the (morally superior) people we’ve become. So, without further ado…..

It went down after a History 101 tutorial during my first year of undergrad.

I cornered my T.A under the guise of asking some questions about the final exam, but what I was really after was someone to help me feel like I could deal with the end-of-semester pressure that was crushing me.

Years later I figured out I had an anxiety issue when the whole thing spun out of control.  But at that time it was just gut rot, pressure on my chest, and a general sense of impending doom that could only find relief in ceaseless work (punctuated by ceaseless smoking and bathing in heavy rotation.)

The conversation with the young History 101 T.A turned from the assignment to the bigger picture. Passover was coming up, my family would be gathering for dinner and I was totally conflicted about whether I could make the trip from London, ON to Toronto for the weekend. All of this very important work was on my plate and if I didn’t sit my ass down I would never get it done. Then I would fail and my life would basically suck.

After patiently listening to my litany of concerns, the kind T.A leaned forward, looked me in the face and very simply said “Jodi, go home.” I’m usually not much of a listener when I’m in an anxious state. Let’s say the voices in my head can be pretty loud. But this simple advice cut through everything and went straight to my bones. I immediately knew he was right.

I made the trip home. My 3 foot nothing Bubbie Rosie greeted me with a hug, and the greasy Passover food nourished my weary soul. I remembered I was a human being, not a fucking exam machine. It gave me what I needed to get through the semester.

Truth be told I’m still working on putting this good advice into practice.  20 years later I’m getting better at not “forcing it.” Last year I wrote about “Not Doing the Hustle” or trying not to buy what Abe Lincoln said:

“Good things may come to those who wait. But only the things left by those who hustle.”

It’s a noble struggle and a life’s work. In short, I’m still trying to take his advice.

This graffiti image snapped on the streets of Cambridge (thanks Tonya Surman) pretty much sums it up.

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