Friday, December 9, 2011

A Learning Experience

     Geoffrey glanced at the clock as he finished another cup of coffee. He had a long night of studying ahead, but he was determined to ace his final exam with flying colors. It didn’t help that several noisy students outside his house were having some kind of party in the street, but Geoffrey wasn’t going to let that be an excuse for slacking. This semester was especially tough, and he often wondered if he took on too many credits for one term, but now he was down to the last few days and success was in sight.
     Geoffrey shoved his empty mug aside and picked up another textbook on Freudian theory when a knock startled him from behind. He spun around in his chair to see Maggie, his roommate, peeking her head in the doorway.
     “I thought you could use some more coffee,” said Maggie, holding up a freshly brewed pot.
     “Thanks, that’s very thoughtful of you.” Geoffrey held out his mug just long enough for her to fill it up, then spun around again and buried his nose in his book. He finished reading half a page before he realized Maggie was still in the room, standing over his shoulder.
     “I really have to focus, Maggie,” he said, looking up.
     “Oh, right,” she said. “Sorry. It’s just that… well, I was hoping I could talk to you about something.”
     He was about to protest, but she cut him off.
     “It will only take a minute, Geoffrey. You’re the only psychology major I know and I could really use your help.”
     Geoffrey took off his glasses and rubbed his temples. Time was a concern, but a little break might be useful, especially if he could help a friend with his expertise. “Sure, Mags. What’s on your mind.”
     “Thanks Geoffrey.” She smiled and took a seat on his bed, still holding the coffee pot. “So here’s the thing… I did something recently I probably shouldn’t have done, and now I’m filled with a lot of regret. It’s eating me away, and I think I’m a terrible person—“
     “Stop right there.” Geoffrey held up a hand to emphasize his point. “Regret is your problem, Maggie. Regret will suck the life out of you. What’s done is done, and that can’t be changed. Whatever decision you made was made for a reason. You took an action based on your knowledge and your emotional state at the time, and you can’t beat yourself up for that. Maybe your choice was had undesired results, but letting regret dominate your mind isn’t going to fix anything. Instead of dwelling on what you did, you should look upon it as a learning experience. Acknowledge your lapse in judgment and ask yourself what you would do differently next time you’re in that situation. Don’t see yourself as a failure, but as a learning, growing human being. Instead of feeling sorrow, you should celebrate this experience as a lesson that will improve your judgment in the future.”
     Maggie hung on his every word. When he finished, she sat on his bed in silence for a few moments, absorbing his wisdom.
     “Wow,” she finally said. “You’re absolutely right. There’s no reason I should feel so bad because I didn’t know better at the time. And now I’ll never make that mistake again and that’s a good thing. I actually feel proud instead of sorry. Thank Geoffrey, you’re the best!”
     She got up to give him a hug in his chair.
      He swerved to avoid getting burned by the coffee pot, but managed to hug her back. “You’re welcome, Maggie. I’m just glad I could help.”
     When she let go she took a deep breath and exhaled. “It’s like a huge burden has been lifted. You’re going to make a great psychologist someday.” Then she turned to leave.
     Geoffrey beamed with pride. He knew he would make a great psychologist someday, and he obviously had a gift for it. One thing still nagged him, though.
     “Hey Maggie,” he said, catching her just before she disappeared through the door. “Can I ask what you did that was bothering you?”
     “Oh sure,” she said. “I just had a great learning experience that taught me not to set off fireworks in the driveway without asking you to move your car first.”

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