Nearly everyone has broken a bone or been injured resulting in minor setbacks. Just imagine going on vacation on a cruise and fracturing your right hand. Let me explain how this tragedy became a source of inspiration that made last year the best year of my life.
It was late January. We boarded the four-day cruise in Long Beach on Friday and would return on Monday morning. We had a great launch and the festivities of our first cruise were quite amazing. There was a wide variety of food for everyone to eat. Entertainment included everything from a variety show, to a stand up comic, trivia game and even things to keep the children out of your hair.
After our first night on the cruise we arrived in Ensenada. It was a bit overcast and I ran back to my room to get my raincoat, but I was in too much of a hurry to put on my shoes designed for the rain. It was only drizzling. We headed into town and caught a local bus, which drove like a roller coaster ride throughout the country. We saw the influence of American business on every corner just like back home. As we passed through It was amazing to see so many developed and modernized places. As we proceeded the roads became rougher and the scenes became more beautiful.
An hour later we finally reached our destination, the Blow Hole. I was very careful as we followed the path past the stores to the glorious sight of water shooting up like a volcano in between the walls of two cliffs, enclosed to provide a spout. The droplets of water came falling down. It was spectacular and I must have stood in amazement for ten to fifteen minutes.
I entered a store to make a purchase before returning to our cruise. I took a fall and fractured my wrist. As soon as I became injured I immediately worried about my return to Los Angeles and how I would teach my 7 classes at four different colleges, how I would manage with my injured right arm and how I would get around being unable to drive my car.
Let’s start from the beginning of the crisis – We returned to the ship, I saw the medic. He put me in a half cast and gave me medication that dulled but did not eliminate the pain. We immediately asked if we should get off the boat and head directly to San Diego, a 45-minute drive. He claimed it would be cost prohibitive.
As my first effort to set a small goal, I realized that it would not do me any good to spend the next two days in bed. The pain did not subside anymore lying down than standing up. I simply had to limit my adventures outside the room to three hours or less. If I occupied my mind and distracted myself I could momentarily forget the challenges I faced.
Once we returned to Los Angeles, I was excited to finally get the medical care which was unavailable on the boat. The thrill was soon replaced by the sheer agony of resetting my arm. Suffice it to say the nurse already had one arm in recovery and when I let go of the other one I held her arm so tight it was purple.
My tears returned when the doctor told me that if I didn’t follow the recovery plan I could mess up my hand for life. In addition to having to recover, I was due to start school in just two days. The doctor said I could return to work as soon as I was able to hold my hand over my head. I don’t normally sleep with my arm in the upright position but if this is what I needed to do, I would learn to adapt. I started sleeping that way.
With all the pain, agony and frustration, I still kept my mind focused on my goal of recovery. I thought, “can I make sure that I complete the recovery in six and not eight weeks?” I must confess, when I got home everything I had previously been able to do was out the door. I couldn’t fasten my undergarment or put on my socks, let alone tie my own shoes. I would get winded just going to the refrigerator and opening it. I needed to determine how to face what used to come as second nature that I could not currently do.
Tracing my victories began after I left the doctor. I did fulfill the first hurdle of raising my hand above my head. Within two days it appeared I would have my six week recovery. My next big hurdle was finding transportation to my four different schools. Lots of possibilities were the unemployed, retired folks or job seekers.
I focused on what I could do. I had access to a phone and I am not shy. My husband returned to work since he knew I would figure it out. Within one day of my return, I had my first assistant; a local retired person who became my best friend. She brought me food and even helped me find clothes to wear over the monstrosity hanging on my arm.
Next I increased my team by encouraging a small brigade of friends to help out with small tasks. There was the person who helped me get to the hairdresser to wash my hair, another to help me organize the stuff on my table, and other friends to do the typing of my syllabus for the upcoming class.
Goal setting is never one straight line, so there were setbacks I had to face. The major challenge was internal frustration; I couldn’t do it on my own and I had to learn patience. This is something everyone can benefit from. I learned this as I began to resolve my return date to work. Could I teach my seven classes located in four districts; Ventura, Whittier, Santa Monica and Hollywood?
My different employers’ reactions to my return to work was divided between accommodating and just plain unreasonable. The nicest one was my newest employer in Ventura. They offered to push back the class a week just so I could be fit to teach. The next helpful school was on the west side that offered to get me a substitute for the first week. The worst wanted me to come out while I was on bed rest. After orchestrating a way to arrive, they simply put me on sick leave for the whole term. The other college mandated I give up one of my classes. A different institution played a game with me; if I didn’t show up the first day, they would keep me out of the classroom for the whole term. I replied; I am not on a deathbed, it is just a fracture, and I will be there the first day. After it all ended, I had five classes in three districts.
Victories emerged as I returned to the classroom. I was mentally at my best. I told my students if I could stand up and teach with an ailment, just imagine what you could do with your fear of public speaking. My mouth worked just fine and I became a source of inspiration. I told them about my previous achievements as the National Decathlon Champion in High School.
My enthusiasm became infectious and spread to my students. I encouraged more students than ever before to compete in the intramural competition. There were nearly 18 participants in the two competitions and an additional half dozen who came out to cheer their peers. In comparison, in previous semesters, I was lucky to get two or three competitors and two or three students to cheer.
My rough start teaching became a tremendous success. As the awards were distributed in the Oxnard College competition my students earned both the 2nd and 3rd place prizes. This success helped motivate my other college students to reach even greater success. I returned to Santa Monica, the next class, and told them of the outstanding results, “One of you is bound to win the 1st place prize in our competition at this school.”
One month later, that is precisely what occurred at Santa Monica College. My students took on my vision with the desire to win. They earned the first place prize. It was the greatest gift when I saw this victory occur before my eyes.
I had been through a major crisis and yet used this crisis to fuel my success. The mind is a powerful tool. What could you do on your own if you changed the script of what exists to what you want it to be? For example, take a crisis and set up small goals and large goals. Prioritize which comes first and what follows. Most importantly, do not quit. I am sure we all have had set backs when things didn’t go as we wished. We have two choices; react or act. I challenge each of you to use my story to help you tackle your problems and turn them into success. I know you can do it. Repeat with me. “Yes I can!” Again, “Yes I can!”