I Was Late to Work and Didn’t Die

I was late to work and didn't die

Say it with me now: “breathe”. “Relax.” You’re fine.” Or at least that’s what my husband said on the phone as I was pushing 80 mph on I4 trying to get to work OVER AN HOUR LATE. 

It should come as no surprise that people who have anxious tendencies tend to want to have their lives mapped out for them in a sustainable and systematic way. I don’t know what it is; it just sort of brings us comfort.

Like in the way that I am an obsessive list maker–you find one of those $1 bin lists (bonus points if it’s cute & magnetic) and I’m buyin’ it. I don’t care if I already have 12 in my desk drawer at home (and at work).

Approaching life in a manner that exercises the illusion of control is one of the false comforts we Type A personalities hide behind. Usually described as both a blessing and a curse, it is our doctrine, our motto, our ride-or-die method of coping with life’s harsh realities and sometimes mundane day-to-day routines.

What I didn’t have “penciled in” at 7:14 a.m. was to wake up and panic that I’m seeing sunlight out of my bedroom window.

Let me get one thing straight–I’m not opposed to making mistakes in life–I’ve made many— but one thing I hold in high regard about my character would be my worth ethic. Based upon lessons taught to me over the years by my father, I understand that maintaining a consistent reputation for hard work– arriving early and staying late– goes a long way in a superior’s eyes.

I can proudly declare that I have never been late a day in my teaching career. Until now.

I suppose it had to happen; I mean, mathematically it was a certainty. Inevitably, things go wrong (hello, Murphy’s Law!): technology fails, people make mistakes, and plans go awry.

I’ll tell ya though, the heart-wrenching, dry throat, sweaty hand panic that goes with this mistake is no picnic.

As soon as I opened my eyes to the sliver of light peeking through the curtain and felt surprisingly rested (huge tip off!), I knew something was very wrong.

I turned over and my husband was still sound asleep. As we carpool to work, this would definitely affect both of us tremendously.

The sound of my shrill scream jarred him out of bed and before we both knew it, we were running in tandem to the driveway to get into our respective cars: me with no makeup, both with no lunch.

Naturally, everything that can happen will and so we were struck with a traffic jam that would account for an extra 40 minutes being tacked onto each of our commutes.

Nervously, I phoned my colleagues (they’re wonderful) and begged them to evenly distribute my kids in their classrooms in an effort to conceal to crime. Thankfully, they already knew what assignment to be working on so at least that was workin’ for me.

By the time I pulled up to the teacher’s parking lot, I had missed just about all of my first period and cowered through the quad while avoiding eye contact with any lingering administrators.

As I approached the end of my hallway, I reluctantly knocked on my colleague’s door to let her know that I was here and my kids could come on into my room. Ashamed of myself, I hurried to the podium and struggled to regain control as I started barking out instructions.

After I returned to my desk and began to sort out documents, unpack my bag, and get my head on straight; I noticed that the majority of the students kept watching my every move, almost as if they were waiting for me to say something.

I began to walk around and slowly they started to ask me all of these questions: “Did you oversleep, Miss?” “Did you not hear your alarm, Miss?” To which I replied: “I’m so sorry; I’ve never been late to school before in my career and it won’t be happening again!”

After that, a funny thing happened. I realized that by coming in late I had inadvertently become vulnerable in their eyes, and therefore humanized. They started to reply to me with comments like: “It’s okay, Miss–we knew what we had to do” and “it happens sometimes, it’s okay”.

I took a deep breath and smiled.

Lesson learned: eliminate the nonsensical pressures and standards that you hold yourself to because at the end of the day, chances are, that you are beating yourself up far more than anyone else would. And in most cases, the behaviors you exhibit over the course of the long term will go further to develop your character than one petty mistake. At the risk of sounding cliché; life goes on. Nothing catastrophic will happen as a result of making mistakes every once in awhile.

In fact, beautiful things may happen. I learned to loosen up and have a backup plan. I learned that s**** happens and count on traffic. I learned that I have some pretty good friends at work who have my back. I learned that if you don’t put yourself on the radar, you won’t be on anyone’s radar. And I learned that kids (no matter what age) are still kids, and they like to know that their teacher is a human being too.

Bottom line: there is no such thing as perfection and attempting to be anything near this standard will result in inevitable failure. Our beauty does not depend upon our projected ideals of perfection and if we have or have not reached those goals, but in our ability to laugh at our silliness, learn from our mistakes, and take a second to relax, stop and “smell the roses,” because when you think about it–life is pretty great. 🙂

I Was Late to Work and Didn't Die: A lesson learned the hard way


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