This I Believe

Shannon - Knoxville, Tennessee
Entered on December 12, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Bendy Straw Attitude

By the time I was twelve, I knew how my life would be. My plans included making top grades, being an active school club member, playing a sport through high school, going to prom in a red dress, getting a full scholarship to Duke or Yale, graduating Duke or Yale with honors, having a prestigious career in the medical field, getting married at twenty-five to a nice man with brown hair and Peace Corp values, having two kids after age twenty-six, and basking in my glory. I held on to this picture of my life as the framework for success. I considered any thing less to be completely unacceptable.

At eighteen, however, I was not seeing what I had expected. In an alarming realization I found myself with no school club membership; no sport; no scholarship to Duke, Yale, or anywhere; no real interest in the medical field; an unexpected pregnancy; a marriage to my red haired best friend from fifth grade (who has just finished an Army training course in how to kill efficiently). What’s more, I have never set foot in a prom or in a red dress, for that matter. I had seen myself as the poster child of achievement, and I could not comprehend how my life had veered so far off my intended path. As everything I had thought I needed and wanted slipped away, I began having panic attacks and bouts of self-loathing. This pitiful attitude affected my relationship with my family, friends, and husband very negatively. I simply could not function for fear of failing myself further.

I asked my husband, who has always been optimistic about things, how he manages to be so positive in the face of his personal failures. He, too, had experienced a drastic change in plans during his life. He turned to me and said, “Honey, I don’t see any failures. You just need to adopt a bendy straw attitude. ”

This confused me at first, but when I reflected on his statement I began to understand that my way of handling life had been all wrong. Unlike my plans, bendy straws are flexible. When drinking a beverage with a bendy straw, one has numerous options in comparison to the rigid structure of an inflexible straw. The beverage consumer can approach the drink from many different angles, and, let’s face it, bendy straw are far more interesting and fun to fiddle with than straight straws. This concept came to be my new paradigm for living. I let go of over-planning and expectations and allowed myself to be okay with bending a little. I’ve learned that life is too ambiguous to view change as failure. I still have many goals, but I believe if I approach them with a bendy straw attitude I will open myself to different and better options and, therefore, make my goals easier and more enjoyable to achieve.