When Mrs. Kwasniewski handed back the graded geometry homework, she stopped when she got to mine to discuss the train wreck I had handed in.
I spent hours working on that assignment, filling several pages with various mathematical equations in a desperate yet futile attempt to find the answer.
Despite these efforts, my final solution was not the correct answer, however what Kwas wanted to point out to the class was the paper trail left behind—evidence I had stayed with the problem even after a few failed attempts, when other students may have simply given up out of frustration.
Sure, even though I didn’t provide the answer she was looking for, I had pages upon pages of support for why I thought my solution was valid—and it was this fascination for discovering a solution that my high school geometry teacher most appreciated.
This experience is a valuable reminder that when we give up too soon while climbing the hill of a challenge, we may avoid the pain of discomfort, but we also avoid the glory of discovering new possibilities for our lives—possibilities that can only be discovered when we stay with it with fascination.
As the song goes: “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”
As for you and me, I hope we continue to dance.
What area of your life could use more fascination?
“Looking back on the memory of the dance we shared beneath the stars above, for a moment all the world was right—how could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye?”
It’s been 14 years since our dance beneath the stars—the night when Stephanie finally said yes. After eight years of being wildly in love, with the brightest smile, she finally said yes!
“I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end, the way it all would go.”
Just ten days later, Stephanie died unexpectedly from an aneurism. The ensuing battle with grief removed all flavor for life. Even the things that once brought great joy just seemed so bland, so useless, and I could see no life beyond the hill of grief.
Amidst the darkness, there were even days when I wished I had never even met Stephanie—for a greater pain had sincerely never before been known.
And yet, what is perhaps most fascinating, is that after climbing that hill, life has continued to be filled with surprises to amaze and delight.
“Our lives are better left to chance—I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”
I can say with authority that one of the kindest gifts you can give yourself is fascination for life, because fascination empowers you with curiosity and wonder to look for, discover, and embrace new possibilities for what your life might be.
While I still think of Stephanie every day, the pain of losing her has been transformed and integrated into who I am, in what I do, and in how I live my life. As a result, I am consistently amazed to discover new joys, passions, and relationships to make my heart flutter and soul sing in ways I never before could have imagined—whether it’s discovering a new perspective from a mountain top, learning to play the ukulele, or simply helping to make someone smile.
As for today, I’m amazed by all that life has offered since September 5, 2007, a valuable reminder that I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to also miss the dance.
What beliefs might you challenge today—with fascination, curiosity, and wonder—to discover what your life might be?
I'm a mirror (and so are you).