There is a scene in Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennett is standing on the edge of a cliff in the Peak District....you know the one I'm talking about - she's staring out into the distance, the wind whipping through the fabric of her dress and coat, the music score builds to this mix of serenity and anticipation. Iconic image on the big screen.
My legs were swung over the side of a big red leather arm chair in my parent's family room. There were only a few weeks left of high school and my final IB exams were approaching — the exams that would determine whether or not I was going to be accepted St. Andrews, to the university of my dreams. The pressure was building and I has this painful English essay to survive through — my interest in studying had evaporated over the previous months and I was running on fumes...fumes of hope and determination. That sick feeling was in my stomach — you know the one where you know you HAVE to do this essay but every ounce of your being doesn't want to, but it doesn't matter how you feel you just HAVE to do it anyway, and you dream about the day when it's finished and all in the past, feeling like it's never going to come? My world was consumed by this stress of HAVING to work, hoping to succeed and fearing what would happen should I fail.
But as I sat there watching Lizzy on the mountain, the world fell into perspective. This was one of those moments of clarity where you feel like you've step out of the buzzing world around you — you think this must be how it feels to be a monk; uber aware of what really matters and afraid of the impending moment when you'll be sucked back into the normal hustle and bussle.
In this tranquil minute, my English essay seemed so small and trivial. If I didn't ace the assignment; if I didn't make it into St. Andrews; if I didn't check all the boxes of my perfect plan; life would still go on and it would still be beautiful. The big problems were suddenly dwarfed by the little joys of simply being alive.
Those 30 seconds played over and over again in my mind as I worked through the essay, survived the exam and awaited the results. I went into my exams free of nerves, everyone around me sweating like pigs — I felt like an oasis of acceptance.... "what will be, will be." I'd done the best I could and now it was out of my hands. It was time to sit back, accept the results and enjoy the bigger picture.
Two months later my phone rang. My history teacher and IB counselor was at the other end of the line. All he said was, "33. Congratulations. Have an amazing time."