The Things That Matter Most

December 18th 2014

Story originally written and experienced: April 23rd 2009

 “I’m sorry Olive, but I can’t find it anywhere.”

“But that’s impossible. I have a copy here in my hands. It’s right here!”

“I know…but it’s not the same. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept your paper.”

We were sitting in

  two        cushioned


On the outskirts of a lecture hall.

My psychology professor and I. Her unfortunate FYI


off the stark white walls.

Thing is.

We got our grades back that day.

And the second thing is.

She gave me a zero on a paper I knew for a fact I had completely completed.

I asked her to meet me after class. And she said yes. And there we were.

Looking at >>        << each other

Puzzled. Confused. And not sure what to say.

“But I turned it in online. I know it! I’ve never missed a paper. I hit send and I have the physical copy of the paper in my bag with me right now. I can show it to you!”

“I understand Olive, but the assignment was to turn it in online, not in person, and I never saw yours come through online. I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

“…I can’t afford a zero on this paper Ms. Hall. I did the paper. Please. Just help me out. Please.”

“And I can’t afford to trust student’s on their word and their word alone. If I give you the benefit of the doubt, I’d have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and that’s not fair to the other students.”

I stood up.

And walked away >>


I could have handled it better. In fact, I know I could have. But I didn’t. Not then. I was upset. Angry. Bitter.

All the while paragraph texting my friend Niki a venting novel before I decided to work out my aggression at the gym and project my frustration on everyone before putting in my headphones and calling it a damn night. Ignoring anyone and everything. Just for a second.

When I woke up the next morning.

I had a voicemail.

A     l   o   n   g    one.

From Niki.

You have one new message. Please enter your passcode, followed by pound.

X X X X X X X X X #

You have one unheard message.

First unheard message. Sent—yesterday at—11:32 pm.

“Hey, it’s me. Just giving you a call to see how you’re doing. I’m sorry everything sucked today. It’ll get better. And you know, the way I see it, if you look at the bigger picture…will this really matter in 6 years? Hell, even 6 months? Probably not. A million more monumental things will happen in        between then. Better ones. More important ones. More permanent and impactful ones…I’m not saying this isn’t a big deal. Because I know it is. And it’s annoying. And it’s not fair. But. Just remember, mini mishaps don’t have to affect the rest of your life. Maybe your day. And if it has to, your week. But they don’t have to if you don’t want them to…you know? Anyway I have to go. You don’t have to call me back, I was just checking in to say hey. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye!”


“Interesting.” I remembered saying out loud. Laying in bed. Listening to that voicemail. Twice.

I always liked Niki for this reason.

Our long distance friendship made



And better through

a chain    of     phone    calls    dubbed    as    either     philosophical     or     fun.

But what I liked most, was that she’d always listen to what I’d say and then she’d tell me something raw and right. Unabashedly.

And then apparently leave me voicemails about it.

The rest of the day was pretty regular. Nothing wild. But nothing bad. Except I do remember looking up my grades for that one class in particular. And calculating. And calculating. And calculating. And calculating.

Realizing that.

The zero on that paper.


And actually.

Left me .02% shy of an A in the class.

A natural reaction.

One moment please.


And then I shut my computer. Put a sweater on. And went to meet some friends for food.


I thought about what Niki said and I thought about it a lot.

How grades are grades. And spilled wine is spilled wine.

They both warrant attention. Provoke frustration. And are completely. And utterly.

Temporary. Fixable. And more often than not.


Just a small bLiP on the radar of much more interesting things.

Successes. Bigger pictures. Better fixes. Cake.

I guess I started to think about how getting upset makes sense. Is allowed. And is inevitably going to happen.

But. Letting it ruin a hang out, work out or a night out due to residual rage.

Doesn’t have to.

Because. Yes. Mishaps matter. 100%.

But how you handle it. Your kickass support system. And a game plan—whether that’s extra credit, a tide-to-go pen or hell, listening to a voicemail, and then listening to it again.

Will always. Every time.

Matter most.