Bird by Bird. Just Take it Bird by Bird.

Today I saw a former student on campus. She was in an honors writing class I taught during the fall of 2019, a small lifetime ago. It had been her first semester. She's now about to graduate. The pandemic years thoroughly anchored and impacted her college experience.

During our brief encounter, she surprised me by saying "I can't believe I bumped into you today. I was just talking to my mom about your class this morning."

This seemed impossible. Well, at least improbable. Who randomly talks about a class they took four years ago?

She explained, "On our very first day, the class felt so overwhelming after we reviewed the syllabus. Then you read a quote to us from Bird by Bird, reminding us that we were going to take the class step by step, day by day, assignment by assignment. I never forgot that. My boyfriend knew how much I love that quote, so he had it embroidered on the sleeve of a sweatshirt for me. He was too excited to wait until Valentine's Day, so he gave me the sweatshirt last night. I called my mom this morning to tell her about his gift. That's why I was talking about your class. You probably don't know this, but that quote not only helped me through our class, but also these past few years."

I was amazed. Who knew that this brief moment during our first class session would resonate with one student so deeply that she'd form it into a life mantra and tell her boyfriend, who'd embroider it on a sweatshirt sleeve, which would prompt her to talk about my class with her mother on the very day that she and I would cross paths again, four years later?

I love this so much. What a gift.

And if you'd like to know the quote by Anne Lamott which started it all, here it is in its entirety:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

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