Have you ever played a video game with “checkpoints?” After jumping over many cliffs and facing many challenges and such, you get to ring a little bell, and the game saves your place. In a life that is sometimes interspersed with various challenges, we too sometimes get to ring a little bell and know that everything is okay.
Did you find out that you were with an abusive partner? Did you have a heart-wrecking miscarriage, divorce, a death of somebody too young to die, God forbid? It’s becoming increasingly common to have trouble finishing school for a plentitude of reasons, like mental health challenges, financial problems, and more. You might feel like the video game monster took a bite out of you or you fell off a pixelated cliff.
People tell you to take things one day at a time. You can barely gather the strength to take a bubble bath, or Zoom with a friend, or plant some flower seeds. The bath seems to get cold too quickly, you feel that the friend cannot comprehend your pain, and the flower seeds that germinated turned out to be weeds instead.
People continue to tell you to take things one day at a time. After four tries, you successfully bake a delicious loaf of bread, and after 29 piano lessons, you can play The Entertainer. After 300 job applications, you get a job interview for this Thursday.
You feel your inner strength making a comeback. A Zoom with Mom teaches you what was classic office-wear in your potential new boss’s decade, based on her LinkedIn profile. A Zoom with your dad is helpful for his practice interview questions. A friend from yoga class takes you out to lunch and gives you a pep talk about her admiration for your dedication. Everyone at the local gardening club is cheering you on at the meeting at the church on Tuesday, and the church employee who is packing up to leave for the day imparts a happy, genuine smile.
It seemed like nobody ever knew what you were going through. Hardly anything felt comforting at the time. Things felt like failure upon failure, and it never felt like things were going to feel better again. The start of progress was so slow, the feelings of discouragement so high, you almost wanted to temporarily abandon your video game progress and watch TV instead. But you pressed on, knowing that one day, you would get to ring the next little bell. “I always have done that,” you thought, comforting yourself.
You were the only kid who couldn’t do long division in elementary school. Then you were the only kid to have gotten an A+ for the year in 7th grade math. You were dumped on Valentine’s Day in 9th grade by a guy you really liked. Then your next boyfriend in 11th grade said “I love you” on prom night. You had to move to Boston for your senior year in high school. Then you got into Harvard.
Now it is Thursday. You woke up at 5 a.m. to do some yoga, then take a shower, and then do your hair like your hairstylist showed you a few years ago, before the incident. You flip the round brush backwards on the other side to make a sidebang. You use a primer on your eyelids like your sister showed you before putting on a neutral eyeshadow color. You apply lipstick and then put it in your most professional bag to apply again right before the interview, like your great aunt advised. You chomp on a piece of homemade bread toast with all of your favorite fixings. Your practice interview with your dad is playing through your head with every bite, along with The Entertainer. “If I get this job,” you think, “it will feel like ringing that next checkpoint little bell.” Everything that has happened in your life beforehand, both bad and good, has been a part of this new checkpoint. If any one of these things had not happened, you wouldn’t be where you had gotten. If the incident hadn’t happened, you would still have lived somewhere else, or would’ve been at the same job, or wouldn’t have had to transfer schools, but then you wouldn’t be going to this job interview right now. None of this would have happened.
“If this isn’t my checkpoint,” you think as you confidently walk out the door, “there will be another one in the future. There always has been, and there always will be.” Or had there been a lot of “little checkpoints” along the way?