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“A man is insensible to the relish of prosperity ’til he has tasted adversity.” ~Sa’Di
This past Monday I made my annual trip with my students to the “College Cadaver Night” at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On the surface, my annual visit to the event is nothing remarkable (except for the fact that we spend time looking at cadavers). However, this year marked my sixth trip down there, and, unbeknownst to most, each time I go, my visit brings back some very strong emotions, but proves to be a psychologically cleansing experience by the time I depart.
The dark times
In the summer of 1999, I spent many days in the Wehr Physics building. I was a student, taking both Physics I and II that summer in an accelerated format. The pressure was on, because I was accepted into and hoping to begin chiropractic school that fall. I needed to get a “C” or better in both courses in order to complete my prerequisite requirements.
It was a tough summer. I was working full time, plus going to school essentially full time. I worked about twenty miles to the north of my residence, and Marquette was about thirty miles to the south. I would get up early and make the commute to Milwaukee so that I could be at school by 8 AM, and then after lecture and lab, I would make my way back up north to get to work. Physics didn’t come easily to me, either…It was a difficult subject for me, and I struggled mightily to make sense of it.
I remember spending time between lecture and lab in this garden. I remember working on my homework here during the break, and having conversations with classmates. I was frustrated because they seemed to be doing well, and while they tried helping me, I just couldn’t seem to catch on. I thought that something was wrong with me, and my self esteem was way down.
Didn’t make the cut
By the end of the summer, I had passed Physics I with a “C,” but I didn’t make the grade for Physics II. I got a “CD,” which essentially is the equivalent of “Nice try.” I checked my professor’s office hours and drove down to the physics building, waiting to discuss my grade with my professor. After forty-five minutes of waiting, she never showed up, and I went back home having achieved nothing. I followed up with a phone conversation, and I remember the last part of our discussion. After asking if there was anything that could be done to improve my grade to a “C,” I asked one final question: “So, what you’re saying is that I can’t start chiropractic school in two weeks…?” My professor responded with, “I’m sorry, Victor,” and she hung up the phone.
My annual spring pilgrimage to Marquette University brings back all of those emotions and reminders of the “dark” times I spent there. I always take a few minutes after I leave the “Cadaver Event” to re-visit the Wehr building and the garden where I spent so much time that summer of 1999. I walk through the garden while contemplating the dark times, confronting my residual negative emotions, and reflecting on how far I have come since then. While chiropractic school seemed so far away and nearly implausable back then, I can’t help but revel in the pure satisfaction and pride in myself, knowing I rose above the adversity and didn’t give up on my dream. I eventually successfully completed my Physics II prerequisite, and went on to get my degree as a Doctor of Chiropractic. Now, I am a college instructor, bringing my own students to the university, contributing to the furthering of their knowledge and providing them with the opportunity to experience an event that will enrich their lives and careers.
On Monday, while snapping shots of the campus for this blog post, I captured my favorite picture (although it may not look like anything special):
This snapshot captures my yearly emotional experience in one single frame. In the foreground is the Wehr Physics building, where many negative emotions were experienced, while in the background (where the students are seen entering) are the doors of the Schroeder Complex — the same doors that I am now privileged to walk through with my students to get to the “Cadaver Event.” I doubt I would be the instructor I am without having gone through that difficult experience at Marquette that summer, and I certainly wouldn’t have the same amount of sheer appreciation for simply being in the position to be able make my annual visit to the campus. Sometimes unless you go through a “dark” period, it’s hard to appreciate how great it is to be “in the light.”
If you are struggling through a “dark” time in your life, or if you have recently experienced a setback, it’s hard not to get down on yourself or wonder how a positive outcome can ever result from the darkness. It’s not about getting knocked down or back, it’s about having the resilience to lick your wounds, brush yourself off, and get back up and keep on keeping on. Resilience is a state of mind — one that can be consciously enhanced if you are willing to keep your eyes on your goals and persevere, and if you are willing to not let failure be a permanent option. You have it within you to bounce back! Your greatness is yet to come! Don’t give up! Visualize your fortunes; visualize your dreams; don’t give up until you make them reality. The rewards are bountiful.
Each year it’s the same — cadavers and catharsis, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s such a sweet emotional experience every time.