Today in memory

Though I've always known that I was smart, I never really applied myself and prepared for things ahead until I met my biology teacher in high school. She was a tough looking, tall, skinny woman who had this wit and cunning about her that looked like you wouldn't want to face her in a chess match. It was around this time in my life that I had my first panic attack,  my depression has grown severe, my family dynamic had just changed completely and I now had a stepmother and stepfather. Not everything was bad at this time though, because I met some friends who, to this day, are the ones I would know will always be there for me; when I close my eyes, when I am scared, when the pain is at its worse or the cold is too bitter, they are the ones there in the dark to help me back up, to protect me, to make me feel safe, to warm me, and to help me move along. I always knew the important of friends, but it wasn't until my biology teacher had I ever met somebody that really made me feel like I was understood. Allow me to clarify. 
Have you ever met somebody and just known deep down, you both would get along ? That's how things were with Ms. Schuler. She was a strong willed woman who had a love for biology and life itself. And I couldn't tell why, but at first encounter it seemed like she knew there was more to me than I let out on the surface. It was about the 3rd week of 10th grade when we had our first quiz, and she asked to speak to me after class. I figured it was about the quiz because my grade wasn't anything special. I was confused when she only asked me "Why are you lazy?" And said nothing more. She didn't elaborate. She didn't explain. Was I lazy because I didn't feel like having gym class next?  Was I lazy for my grade ? Did I forget something ? Knowing I was confused, she continued to tell me about how I was clearly understanding everything in class, but wasn't doing my homework and wasn't doing all of the work on the quiz. She told me I was lazy. That I needed to apply myself. That I had a shot of a future if I wasn't so stubborn thinking I knew everything. I didnt say anything and left once she was finished talking. The next few days of class I didn't speak much either. I didn't feel like listening, maybe because I was too lazy. Until suddenly one day I had trouble breathing and in the middle of our lab I asked her to see the nurse, and after ruling out anything obvious, the nurse just had me sit down on one of the beds and take some time to relax. After several minutes she explained that she thinks I may have been having a panic attack. 
Fast forward to the end of the first quarter, when one day after class I ask Ms. Schuler if I can hand in my lab from the previous week. I told her what was going on and why I was absent, and this was the first time I had seen her really talk without being intimidating. She told me about how everyone has things in life and sometimes they're beyond our control, and that in life no matter what happens all you can do is be prepared and enjoy each day as it comes. Over the course of the year, she would share her stories of backpacking in Canada and going on a cruise to Alaska, driving across Europe and living a wonderful life. During our year of class, I had come to learn that she had breast cancer a few years before and had survived it , with the odds against her. She told me this is the reason she always goes on a vacation each summer, because she knew what life was like with stage 4 breast cancer and she never wanted to let it take away from her the thing she loved most: the ability to enjoy your own life. 
That lesson stuck with me forever. So i alwags promised to do my best do enjoy my life each day, not knowing what the next brings. And when i moved across the country for college and was living in San Francisco, i found out that on this day, September 1, 2012, Betty Jean Schuler passed away from a second battle with cancer. She never let it take from her. 

No comments: