Are you better at offering help than receiving it? Too proud to ask maybe.
I’ve been spending this past month in the town where I lived a good part of my life before getting divorced and moving away. Memories associated with place and people are randomly showing up in my mind and heart, things I haven’t thought of for a long time.
Like this one.
I’m an adult student returning to college full-time for a master’s degree in counseling. Nearly every other student went from undergrad to grad school and is their 20’s. In general, I’m filled with fear wondering if I can actually do this, go to school and pass courses for the next three years. Am I good enough to be a counselor? What if I’m not? I have the belief that I am a role model and “should” be the best and not show any of my anxiety. Instead, I drink milk and eat a row of Oreo cookies after classes.
So here we are, a group of us, completing an internship at Dickinson College. The director is really into adventure-based counseling and brings in a friend to teach and let us experience some of the techniques. One is sort of a ropes course.
We are out in the quad where there is a series of ropes with knots running from tree to tree, over and under and back again. We are each blindfolded and given the instruction to find our way to the end represented by a red flag. If we need help, we are advised to raise our hand, and someone will come by to assist us.
Piece of cake, I think to myself.
Off we go. It doesn’t take long for me to feel frustrated. I can tell by the feel of the rope, the knots, and the trees that I am going back and forth the same way. Several times now. I can get this, I tell myself. Just be patient. I renew my determination.
Slowly, my classmates start to yell out and say they are done. I start to sweat. My anxiety kicks into high gear. My heart is pounding inside my chest. I start to panic and am near tears.
One-by-one I hear them shout out they’re done. I am the last one. Reluctantly and with embarrassment that I couldn’t figure out my way through the maze, I raise my hand.
The instructor comes by and whispers into my ear and asks, Yes? I can’t figure it out I say, hoping he doesn’t notice the drops of sweat dripping down my face. What do you need, he asks?
I need help, I say.
All you had to do was ask, he says. The blindfold comes off, and I’m led to the flag.
The Very Last One to ask for help. The whole exercise was not about ability. It was about recognizing and having the courage to ask for help.
A lesson that has come to serve me well and that I still need to remind myself of from time to time.
The Universe works this way as well. It is there to help you live your best life.
All you need to do is ask.