Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Think (09/02/10)
TITLE: A Difference of Perception
By Judy Lawhon
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I could almost hear the whispers as I searched for the seat farthest from the instructor and tried to blend in with the young crowd, knowing my wrinkles and gray hair were a dead giveaway that I really wasn’t going to fit in. “What is that old lady doing here?” were the words I was sure were being said as I opened my textbook to avoid meeting the eyes of my fellow classmates.
I found myself praying, "Please God, just help me get through this one class."
I survived that day and the next, and soon some of my classmates were smiling a welcome and sometimes including me in pre-class conversations. One student even asked my advice on a homework assignment that was a bit confusing.
But at times I still felt out of place, and it seemed my brain had to work twice as hard as it would have years ago to turn in a passing paper. It seemed to come so easy for this younger generation. Really now, what was I doing here?
On the last day of the class, we were asked to share what we had gained from the class and how it was going to affect the future class experiences.
I was nervous knowing my turn was coming soon and instead of listening to my classmates’ responses, I was thinking about what I would say. Suddenly, the student in front of me stood up for her critique. “I have learned that I can always learn; I can always try something new; I can succeed if I put in the extra effort; age is not an excuse to not try something different.” And she turned to me and said, “Thank you.”
I was speechless. When I thought I was being foolish to try for a college degree at my age, I was instead being an example. What I saw as a disadvantage, my classmate saw as an example of staying on course and going after a dream.
And so I remind myself that perception and fact can be two different things. So often what I think and what is are two different things.
After class I thanked my classmate for pointing out what I had missed. Each class I took presented a new challenge. But as the coursework progressed, so did my confidence. And looming in the near future is that degree that I have dreamed about for so many years.
Now I not only think I can attain it; I know I can.
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