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September 11, 2013

Shortcomings

“When you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Such is the advice that Nick Carraway attributed to his father on the first page of The Great Gatsby. I thought of it today as did my laundry. (This happens when you’re an English major. Literature just appears places, uninvited, and then it asks to be in your blog post, and you have to just slip it in.)

You see, I’m something of a tall person. At like 6’0, 6’1, (depending on whether or not you trust a licensed physician), I can get my clothes out of pretty much any dryer. But I thought about other people that I know, the shorter among my friends, for whom retrieving laundry from such lofty appliances may prove difficult.

And so I followed my journalistic instinct and interviewed Becca, who stands proudly at 5’0.5,  about this weekly struggle.

She immediately began to relate to me not only difficulties with the dryers in Blackstone Hall, but also laundry machines in other locations. I choked back a tear as I listened to her tribulations.

For comic relief: a photo of Becca struggling to retrieve some clothing from a dryer.

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I’ve learned in college that there’s some stuff that I’m good at and some stuff that I’m not good at. I’m not good at staying up late. I’m not good at writing long papers just one day in advance. I have a hard time not leaving a room full of people that I don’t know. I have limitations.

Being in college is a constant battle against your limitations. Well, not a battle against. More like a journey around. Since I know that I can’t write a ten-page paper in twenty-four hours, I’m not going to sit down with a cup of coffee and say “Well, let’s try it anyway!” I’m going to sit down and start the paper probably a week (or longer) in advance and spend an hour or two in the library every day, so I can finish it three days in advance so I can let it sit for a day, then edit it. Why? Because that’s the way that I’ve learned to do it.

Developing strategies for circumnavigating limitations is a skill that is hard to develop because it’s hard to figure out what you’re bad at, and once you do, you can feel like you’re just wallowing in impossibilities and sadness. But everyone is going to have to, because one day, all of the dryers on the bottom level will be taken and you’ll have to use the ones on the top, even if you’re just 5′.05.

Being at Clark has taught me about a few of my limitations. I’m going to learn about more of them every day for the rest of my life. So I’ll never know about every little thing that I can’t do, but at least I’m learning how to work with them while I’m here.

 

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