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Monday, February 16, 2009

The small stuff

I still remember the first time I ever heard the phrase, "don't sweat the small stuff." During one of my night classes at TCU, my sociology professor allowed me to leave class a few minutes early. Something was greatly weighing on my mind and I wanted to deal with it (plus, I was done with the in-class assignment). If I remember correctly, I was convinced that I was about to be fired from the campus radio station. And that was "small stuff"? I begged to differ, but I just nodded, smiled, and left the classroom.

Earlier in the day, I had received a very, very terse voice message from the program director at the time. Her strict rules are something I still think about all these years later, and I hope I never come across as such a hard-ass to my co-workers. She didn't like how I was a regular guest on a show, and that I didn't have "permission" to do that. The deal was, I didn't know I had to ask permission. The hosts wanted me on there, so I thought that was sufficient.

So, for a good twenty-four-hour period, I'm a nervous wreck about this. Here I was having fun working at the very cool campus station and getting some airtime as well. And now I'm convinced that is about quashed. No, this didn't seem like a small little thing in my mind. Not at all. And I'm not supposed to sweat this?

The next day, I happened to drop by the station and the program director happened to be in her office. What transpired was so strange: she was very polite as she explained that she just didn't like being out of the mix with everything. What followed that was even stranger: she offered me a regular DJ shift on Tuesday nights, right in the heart of the modern rock schedule. This was incredible, and definitely not anything I had forecasted happening in the previous twenty-four hours.

My point to this whole story is that you can tell people that what's plaguing them is small, but I think it's very important to explain why this seems small. What's "small" and "large" is all about perspective. At that point in my life, what seemed "small" to someone twenty-five years older than me was not small at all. How could I have seen the smallness of this when it seemed (and felt) so large?

Now at thirty, I try to offer helpful advice to people younger than me on the proverbial small stuff. However, I try to stay clear of minimizing by saying that this is just "small stuff." Again, the perspective and context of a person's life is always subject to change. What was big, unbearable, and seemingly-impossible to take on at twenty seems small, bearable, and possible at thirty. But simply telling people that is not enough. Experience is what teaches us the best, so leave that option open instead of just telling people how it's gonna be.

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