Even as a child, I found my brain lacked focus in the first hour after waking. The experience has become more prominent with age. To say it “lacks focus” sounds negative, but I don’t intend it to be. If I am trying to focus on a task at work, having a mind that wanders can be a bad thing. But a wandering mind is essential to originality. Or, to drag an old cliche out of the closet and beat it like a rug: wandering minds “think outside of the box,” and it is outside of the box that all the messy, nebulous plasma of creativity lies.
My wandering mind brings me inspiration for writing, for new approaches to troublesome problems, for new website ideas, for new directions to take in life, for… the list is endless. Other times, I find myself reliving memorable experiences, some of them moments when I acted shamefully, and others which are a source of pride or joy.
The other day, lying awake in bed in the first warming moments of dawn, waiting for the house to come to life, a memory popped into my head.
Time for a juicy confession: when I was in high school, I was a Latin geek. (Okay, so it’s not the type of thing you’ll see splashed across the tabloids, but I needed to say the confession was juicy to keep you reading. I initially titled this post “Latin geek,” but figured no one would stick around to read it). I know you’re picturing a pale, waif of a youth, with a perpetual runny nose, ill-fitting clothes, and no social skills and — well, you’d be partially correct. It’s rare nowadays to find a school that even offers Latin for study, much less one where it’s the best class in the school. My Latin class was extremely engaging, owing largely to a phenomenal teacher — Margaret-Anne Gillis — who has almost single-handedly resuscitated the stone-cold language and spent most of her career spreading the word that rumours of Latin’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Once, in senior Latin, we were assigned a passage of poetry to be performed by each student in front of the class. Like much of classical poetry, the passage was in dactylic hexameter. Dacta-what? Look it up on Wikipedia.
On the date of performance, the teacher cycled through the class. Like any subject, different students expended varying levels of effort. Some stumbled through the passage, pronouncing barely any of the words correctly; others, pronounced the words correctly but with limited expression; a few had expression but did not follow the meter; others followed the meter, but spoke in a monotone.
I was the last performer, and I had practiced the hell out of this passage of poetry. Not only had I carefully practiced each word to ensure I said it correctly and clearly, but I read it according the meter, and delivered it all in a dramatic voice. And, despite many of my practice runs, when I had stumbled over parts of the passage, I said it all without a single error.
When I was finished, the entire class erupted in applause.
Today, I am thankful for the few occasions in life when we feel like we are on top of the world. Remembering this event the other morning, I found a smile spreading across my face. Most of us spend our lives as one person among billions, nameless and faceless and insignificant. But once in a while, we do something that stands out, and a few people take notice. Maybe the course of history isn’t affected, maybe it doesn’t change the world… but it changes us.
Have you had a moment where you shined? Please tell me about it in the Comments.