Sometimes a small step can be a big leap.
I had a full day yesterday on a bad night’s sleep: a morning workout, a busy and productive day at the office, a work reception at which I had to shoot some photos (a requirement of my job that I’m really, truly challenged by), and a free health lecture I had signed up for. My day, which had started before 5 am, was due to end at 8:30. At about 3:30, I got a text from a friend expecting her first child: she was in the hospital in labor. I texted back that I would stop by when the lecture was over.
In the half hour between the reception and the class, I grabbed a wrap for dinner, then headed to the lecture hall, where I settled into a chair. I knew I was doomed within the first 20 minutes (the speaker started late and then couldn’t get her clip-on microphone close enough to her mouth for anyone to hear her). I hung in for almost an hour, hoping that she would finally get to her point, if indeed she had one, then gave up, gathered up my stuff and got up to leave. I proceeded to make an unfortunately noisy exit: the door wouldn’t open. I finally figured out that the other side of the double door was the one that was unlocked, and out I went. Oy.
There was a time not very long ago when I wouldn’t have dared leave the lecture early or risk such a potentially mortifyingly clumsy exit. But I apparently have finally reached a place when life is too short and my time too precious to give a flying fig. I had had a long day, the presentation was truly bad, and while I didn’t want to be rude, the speaker didn’t seem to mind wasting my time. And I had something more important to do.
I was raised to believe that the worst thing I could be was selfish; in our house, that word had a broad definition, and unfortunately included knowing what I want and standing up for what I need. It’s been a long, confusing road to be able to do either of those things, to overcome the belief that if I am so unimportant, I must also necessarily be wrong. So while ditching a class in a room full of people may seem like a small thing, for me this early public exit, unencumbered by guilt or embarrassment, was a hard-earned victory.