Life sucks, but sometimes you learn something


Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.

Let’s just say the second half of 2012 and I did not get along. Now, before I go any further, let me preface everything I’m about to say with this: I am not here because I want your pity. I am not here because I’m fishing for sympathy.

I did not enjoy most of June through December 2012, but I’m not here to gripe about how much it sucked or ask you to feel sorry for me. I’m here to talk about what I discovered as I looked back on those six months from the other side and tried to apply what I learned in the aftermath to my life today. College is about more than just learning in class, it’s about learning about yourself and about how life works.

Hopefully, this exercise is helpful for someone besides myself.

I guess the first domino to fall — literally (although it was a literal fall, rather than a literal domino, unfortunately) — came on June 13, 2012, when I broke my wrist playing basketball. I spent the next five weeks in a cast that went halfway up my bicep, and the four weeks after that, in one that came three-quarters of the way to my elbow.

In those nine weeks, I learned two things. One, I really should not grow a beard. Like, ever. I stopped shaving while I had the larger cast on, as I couldn’t actually reach my face with my dominant hand, and the results were … less than spectacular.

The second thing I learned was never to take for granted my current state of non-disability. Which is funny, because I do that all the time. Being able to use my right arm again is absolutely amazing, and yet, I assume it always will be the case.

As an aside, let me say there is nothing more frustrating than trying to play video games when you can’t move your thumb. Trust me on that one.

After arriving at MSU for the start of school in August, things finally felt like they were good. My cast was off and while I couldn’t actually use my wrist as much as I wanted to, having full control of my fingers still was very exciting. But then things started happening. I lost a scholarship, blew up at my then-editor for essentially no reason, and eventually had to leave my job here at The State News.

You know the saying, “Sometimes, when God closes a door, he opens a window”? Well, in my experience, sometimes, when God closes a door, it’s to keep the storm outside from ruining your house.

I was asked to leave my job by management and I found that grossly unfair at the time. But in retrospect? They were probably right when they told me it was for my own good. I struggled at first to adapt to a life where I wasn’t spending a quarter of my day working, but somewhere along the way, I discovered I simply wasn’t as stressed anymore. I didn’t blow up at people anymore and I actually had time to enjoy myself during the workweek.

Would I have preferred to keep my job? Yes. But I learned something about myself instead. I learned there exists a point at which I no longer can handle stress.

So if I’m ever in a position where I start feeling overwhelmed — and I need to keep my job to continue enjoying the benefits of things like food and shelter — I can recognize the warning signs and do something about it before I start blowing up at my bosses and such.

After I left my job, I started seeing a counselor for the first time since I was in middle school. And I learned that admitting you need help dealing with things isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. And while that does sound cliché, it’s more true than I ever would have guessed without experiencing it myself.

In six months, I broke my wrist, had surgery on my butt — don’t ask — returned to school, lost a large scholarship, had to leave my job and struggled to adapt to normal life. Again, I did not enjoy the second half of 2012.

But after all that? I emerged from finals week secure in the knowledge I’d survived without any permanent damage — well, except for the fuse marker in my wrist — and found out a week later I’d somehow notched the highest GPA of my college career and made the Dean’s List. I’m not bragging. I seriously don’t know how that happened.

Sometimes, you can surprise even yourself, I guess.

Happy spring break, everyone.

Caleb Nordgren is a staff writer at The State News and a journalism junior. Reach him at

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