On my first day of college, I had a couple of hours to kill between classes. My few friends were attending classes of their own, and I was on my own. I have always loved books, so I went to the library. I decided to shelf read, and wander through the stacks, until I found something of interest. Once I entered the stacks, I almost immediately began to feel a sense of dread. I couldn't find the section I was looking for. High school libraries use the Dewey decimal system. I had spent 12 years of my life learning where things were located using that system. Even my local public library used Dewey. Colleges and universities use the Library of Congress system for organizing their stacks. Having to ask a student worker in the library to explain how the library was organized only confirmed that I was in over my head. I didn't belong at a college.
That conclusion might seem like a huge leap, but there was good reason. Historically, women in my family did not go to college. My grandmother attended a conservatory of music when she was a teenager, and one of my aunts briefly attended a "finishing school" before marrying. I was to be the first woman in my family to graduate from college. I doubted that I was smart enough, but I had gone to college out of respect for my parents and the teachers who had encouraged me.
Once I had been assisted in understanding how the library was ordered, I headed for the fiction section. My anxiety was too high to attempt to learn anything, I reasoned. Randomly, I selected a book by an author I had hears some friends mention. The library didn't have the book they had been discussing, so I selected a different one. The book was "In the Beginning" and the author was Chaim Potok.
I opened the book and on the first page, I read the words above..."All beginnings are hard." Interesting that I should select that book with those words on a day when I was starting something new. Was this serendipity, or providence? It didn't matter. Those four words, attributed to the Orthodox Jewish mother of the main character in the book, gave me strength. Repeated like a mantra, they got me through those first fearful days of college. Since then, they have gotten me through many other challenges in my life. They were even the words that I drew upon to give me courage to write the first post when I started my own blog.
The words "All beginnings are hard," repeated as a mantra, have helped me may times when I find myself in new situations. This has applied to starting a new job, moving to a new town, or learning a new skill. In the beginning, things are always hard as I am pushed outside of my comfort zone and into the unknown. Beginnings always present new challenges. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It 's just something that comes with change. It takes time to learn the new skills required in a new environment, and it takes time to become comfortable with your new circumstances.
I think David Lurie, the character from whose perspective the story is told, says it best.
"Be patient. You are learning a new way of understanding....All beginnings are hard....Especially, a beginning that you make for yourself. That's the hardest beginning of all."