There was a pivotal moment in my life that I didn’t notice at the time, but now looking back, I kick myself for taking the wrong turn. I was 20 years old and attending University of Maryland at College Park (around the mid 1990s). It was the start of the Fall semester and I had been battling anxiety all summer. The sensation at the time was new to me, I didn’t understand it and certainly didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. On the first day of school I found myself running to class already late. When I arrived the class had started. I could hear the students and professor going through introductions. Something inside me froze. My legs stiffened and the muscles in my back tightened. It was like I hit a force field and couldn’t go beyond the hallway. Standing outside the classroom for a few minutes, I toyed with the idea of sneaking in or turning around. I suppose my fight of flight kicked in, I whipped around and got out of there quicker than I had run in.
I was required to meet with an academic counselor before I dropped my classes. Fidgeting in my seat I explained that I wanted to drop out because I wasn’t sure of my career direction and I wanted to take time off. She just listened and I felt the need to make a promise to return after one semester. Mrs. X easily looked right through me, she knew I was full of it and I could feel my face burning from embarrassment. She leaned in and said, “You know I’m not just an academic counselor. I’m a regular counselor too and we can talk about anything you want.”
The feeling of shame rushed through me. This was the first time, and maybe honesty the only time in my life someone saw “it” in me. I’m usually very good at hiding my anxiety, or so I think anyway. I stammered “No, I’m fine. I just want a little time off to figure things out.” That was the pivotal moment in my life where help was offered directly to me and I turned it away.
Instead of seeking help I listened to the noise in my head telling me to keep quiet. Rather it be from shame, fear, or pride I didn’t allow myself to reach out to anyone. Over a year later, the next pivotal moment entered my life. I recognized it this time and refused to let it pass me by. I shut the noise off and got myself back on track.
Question to my readers. Do you think there are wrong turns or it is all just a learning experience we should embrace? Have you ever recognized a pivotal moment at the time it was happening? Sometimes we recognize the moment only after it has passed, and the door to may have closed. I feel like that is the case for me more often than not.