Mr. Shirkey laid the paper face down on my desk, saying, dramatically.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

I turned over the lab report on the worm dissection, and was slightly relieved that it was only a D, since I figured I'd deserved an F. I'd had no idea what I'd been looking at at all. I filled in the answers with nothing like a real answer, a muddle, which was all I could see. Anything under the microscope was a blurred mystery. This despite having glasses by the time I was 15, sophomore year. Despite being a straight A student in high school.

Oh, I'd gotten Cs in 7th grade typing, pity grades, since she saw I really tried, but never could get my fingers to do as dib. bod. bid. In lower grades I had occasional Bs in maths, related to numbers turning in my brain from 3 to 5 to 8 and back, which I only figured out in college statistics class (dyscalculia.) Generally, I did well in school, with enough effort to have good study habits.

For non-acedemics, if I figured I was not going to be pretty competent, I would withdraw fairly soon. Violin bruised my chin, and I couldn't finger the strings, did that about a month. Flute I managed one song, the tone never sounded good, that was maybe two months. Rented instruments, nothing much lost. My father thought that the trick to a good life was being able to play an instrument. (He always thought there was a trick to any kind of success. He'd never managed the trick to it, so was where he was.) I was terrific at cutting my losses. I minded my mother telling me I lacked sticktoitiveness.

I failed to have her ironclad faith. Lost it when I was eight, if I'd ever had it at all. I wanted it, prayed for it. Eventually nitpicked that if Faith was a gift from God, and God hadn't seen fit to give it to me, what was I to do? I rather liked
that St. Thomas made Jesus prove himself, and was bothered that his unbelief was disparaged. I now think that those who have faith are being cheated of their curiosity and most of their intelligence thereby.

My first marriage failed miserably, due in no small part to my general failure to make friends or lovers. When I learned to make friends, I realized just how badly I'd chosen a husband. I failed, for a year, to get myself out of that abusive relationship.

I'd been working at a survey research center, phone surveys. I came in for my shift. I looked at the phone. I looked at my survey. I looked at the phone. I cleaned everything with alcohol. I looked at the phone. I picked up the receiver. I put the receiver down. I did this for almost two hours. I picked up my knotted stomach, walked up to my supervisor, and told him I had to quit. I simply could not make another phone call, possibly ever again in my life. He nodded, made sure they had my correct address, and wished me luck.

I once worked for a famous dance teaching studio. I could teach dance well. That was not the issue. I would not lie to, nor pressure at every break in breath, my students to sign up for the most expensive dance class packages. They fired me.

I worked night shift as an aide at a nasty little nursing home, all psych patients, about half elderly. Two of the other aides who hated me said I'd pushed a patient. This was the same week I got into nursing school. The nursing supervisor fired me with one of those half assed, ever changing reasons. Afraid they would call my nursing school, I did not fight it, but left in exhausted tears, and indignant fury. Every doubt and fear overwhelmed me. I also failed to report the place, but I did not know enough then.

I took Anatomy 204. Great teacher, great class, I studied pretty well, I thought. Then the midterm appeared before me. Empty lines. Trace a drop of blood from the right ventricle through the right kidney to the liver naming all vessels and organs. List all the muscles, the nerve artery and vein involved in raising your left arm. The following Monday, when the test was passed back, I took a peek, then took myself to the nearest restroom stall, and sobbed. I would get an A on the final, and take the class again, for the A for the class.

In nursing school, I failed daily. I rarely made the same mistakes twice, but I found new ones constantly. So, I was never snotty about asking for someone to check behind me. As a result, when I was in my senior clinicals, I was the one my clinical instructor sent to the other floor, without her to watch over me, when there weren't enough precepting nurses.

"You'll be fine."

What she really meant was that I was reasonably competent, not cocky. I would ask anyone for help, without hesitation, without ego. She trusted me to neither jump off the deep end, nor stop in my tracks. I probably wouldn't kill anybody. I had learned how to fail, but keep going, turn it around.

I was new in surgery, maybe four months in. I scrubbed, and went to put on my sterile gown. Hit the sleeve on the (unsterile) light. (Damn, blast, idiot snarflebarble... .) Nurse took off my gown, so my hands were still sterile, got another gown, hit the light again. (Stupidstupidstupid... .) Again with the gown, third time in a row, again, I hit the sleeve of the gown on the light. I felt about this (`) smart. I have never contaminated a gown putting it on since. This is the story I tell to newbies in the Operation Room to this day.

"It gets better. Give yourself time, this is hard. Sometimes we forget."

I don't do everything well, but I keep trying. I still screw up numbers, but I double check them. I don't work under microscopes. Still can't play an instrument. I forget stuff. I get the thingmabob on the whatsit the wrong way, and have to redo it. I do not quit because a task is hard. I fall, and keep working until I get the job right. There is no trick to what I do right, save only practice, experience. And remembering, deep in my bones, when I am wrong.

"I screwed up. I am fixing it right now."

Well, hell, makes for a good story, if I tell it right.


words: Zhoen (One Word)
image: Cecilia Austin, Philippines (clearcandy daily)

another blueprintreview story without trick: Life in the Sign Business


BluePrintReview - issue 20 - The Missing Part