Monday, November 28, 2011

Lesson from the past

I vividly remember my high-school history teacher. She wasn't a great history teacher (mind you, the subjects we studied back then will make a Western-raised child think it was some sort of strange boring science fiction), however she taught us (at least me) one great lesson.

The journey of 1000 miles begins with one stepWe were in grade 12 - preparing for the University exams. Back then you had to take 3 exams - one for a different subject - in order to get into University. There were a fixed number of  'places' and they will average the grades on the 3 exams, and start from the highest average down the list. When they counted as many places as they had available - that was it: you made it or not.

So here we were: a bunch of grade 12 kids, all with dreams and hopes and all overly stressed out.

As such, we would care less about history and other mundane subjects: our focus was mathematics and physics (for engineering or accounting) or chemistry and biology (for medical school) - the main streams. Our teachers knew very well we won't focus on their subjects. One day the history teacher (a lady well in her 50s, maybe even 60s - she had been my parents' teacher too) came into class and discovering us in a frenzy (can't remember the exact reason) tried her best to calm us down. We were not be calmed down, though, and one of my colleagues exclaimed, thoroughly frustrated: I think I'll quit, I don't know enough to make it, what's the point?

Oh, to this day I recall her smile and her answer: My children, the very step you must take in order to succeed is to make an appearance! If you go and write the exam, you might pass it. If you don't go - you will fail for sure!

I didn't pay much attention at the moment - however a few months later I was finding myself after the very first exam, Geometry. That has always been my best subject in school, I loved Geometry (and still do); but the subjects on that exams were simply brutal (to give you an idea - my mom was a high-school Math teacher and a very good one, when I got home and showed her the subjects she couldn't solve all of them... she solved 3 out of 5, started some ideas on the 4th, and she just couldn't figure out how to start the 5th one!). So here I am - two more exams ahead of me... and I knew I wouldn't get good grades for the first... heck, I didn't even know if I will get 50% on the 1st one! Walking through the park, trying to clear my head - at first I decided there is no point in getting up next morning and going to the 2nd exam (Algebra). Then I remembered my history teacher and her idea - yeah, I might have done badly on that first day, but if I don't go tomorrow I will fail for sure!

Needless to say - I went to the next 2 exams. The Algebra was hard, but decent, and the Physics (my least favourite subject) had some grade 9-10 questions... it was so easy I couldn't believe my eyes!

That was the last time when I considered quiting anything. That was my very first lesson on how to approach life - always be present! Every now and then, when things get hard I am tempted to give up, then I remember her smile and if it's something important - I will keep doing it. I might not succeed all the time, but no one will accuse me for not trying!

Do you have an important lesson you learned in your life?

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