Our typical family schedule began again this morning. My two older daughters waited for the school bus to arrive in the warmth of our home while drawing pictures with their fingertips in the condensation that formed on the inside of our screen door's glass panel. I drove my youngest daughter to her morning preschool class before heading to campus and scouting out the rooms where I'll teach this upcoming semester.
This is my habit every semester. I visit each classroom, check the equipment, count the desks to make sure there's enough seating, and pray for my incoming students.
In the final classroom, I noticed that one high window had been left ajar -- probably for the duration of the winter break. The room was freezing. Being a woman of action, I pushed a desk over to the window, climbed onto the seat, stepped onto the desktop, stepped up to the lower window ledge, and then stretched to close the upper window. It was just beyond my reach.
From this position, it only took a second to realize that trying to close this window myself wasn't the best idea. The ledge was narrow and my footing was unstable. I scrambled to gain traction as I felt myself tipping backward and desperately grabbed the metal grill across the bottom of the window. The grill ripped from the wall and smacked me in the face as I landed on the desk and crashed onto the floor.
It wasn't one of my finer moments. (My one consolation -- besides the fact that I had no audience -- is that I'm only sporting a minor lump and bruise on my chin where the grate hit me. It could have been much worse.)
Sometimes it takes a bad decision to bring a dose of caution and wisdom into your life.
Like most everyone, I've made some bad decisions over the years. Some have been small, like the unfortunately short haircut and stark highlights I got at a discounted rate at a beauty school before my college graduation (please don't ever convince yourself that this would be a good idea), and some have been large, leaving long-term ramifications.
But it's in these moments that I've learned. As much as I regretted that haircut (and all pictures taken of me in its six-month aftermath) and as much as I wish I could go back and revise several critical decisions, these lapses of good judgment, well-intentioned mistakes, and outright failures have matured me.
For example, I now know not to climb to precious heights while balancing on a narrow ledge to close a window that's well out of my reach. See how mature I've become?
It's a new year. While I hope we seek wisdom and make smart decisions all year long, let's not beat ourselves up and be afraid of the bad ones. We just might grow the most in the places where we experience a little pain.
Image compliments of jmcclurken (flickr.com)