Well, it seems I woke up itching to climb on my soapbox this morning. Don’t worry, I’ll bring this back around to books by the end of it, I promise
Having finished my tour of duty as an on-site parent (meaning I’m an empty nester with one still in college), I find myself continually wondering when “C”s became failures. I heartily disagree: the class I learned the most from in high school was the one I could barely scratch my way to a C: chemistry.
I remember stupefying formulas, bad experiments, and disappointed lab partners. I remember my teacher’s…um…bold choice of ties and his inexplicable (to me) passion for science. But I also remember how he would not let me throw my hands up and “fail.” He helped me stick with it, search hard for understanding, and even accept my limitations. “Face it, chemistry’s just not your thing,” he said with a smile, “But hang in there—we’ll work hard and you’ll pass.”
Back then I was forced to take chemistry. Now, I am thankful for the lessons in persistence, trial and error, recognition of limitations, asking for help, and the power of encouragement that his chemistry class taught me. I count that “C” as valuable as the easy and delightful “A”s I earned in English. Maybe more so.
I hope to pass that value on as a parent. My son’s first college semester yielded a grueling schedule. His only available elective turned out to be Russian. Russian? Difficult, extra course hours, way out of his skill set, and by no means an engineering necessity. Far from the fluffy-easy-A elective one would hope for a brand new freshman. I could have worried (I did, a bit) about what it would do to his GPA or what other stellar electives he might have missed. Lots of parents do. Instead, I preferred to hope it was his “Chemistry.”
It was, in many ways. Russian turned out to be hard, but fun. There was a cute girl. It pushed him in a new, adventurous direction. I love that he occasionally spouts Russian phrases or texts me in Russian just to stump me. The “B” he earned in that class held lots of other values that won’t show up in his GPA.
Risk-taking must be partnered with the ability to do “just okay” or even fail. We need people ready for adventure, willing to be bad at a few things in order to find the place where they truly shine. We need engineers willing to get a “B” in Russian and writers willing to fight for a “C” in chemistry.
Why? Because the ability to take a risk is what enabled me to take the dare that got me started writing romance. And now I work with a whole different kind of chemistry—the kind between a man and a woman. You’ll find lots of it—and lots of encouragements to step out of your comfort zone—in The Doctor’s Undoing.
What have you found hard but worthwhile? What did you learn from the experience?