• Eydie Balsam

Why Not Me? Why Not You?

The past few days have been challenging. In addition to everything that is going on in the world, in our state, in our city, my students are winding down their school years and are beginning to unravel - if they haven't already. I have had several difficult meetings with students where students have revealed that they are stuck - they are feeling defeated even before they start the college search and application process. I know that I can not erase those feelings in one 45 - 50-minute zoom call, but I hope that I was able to plant the seeds to help them look at this process as something fun and full of JOY instead of one full of stress, by asking one simple question, "Why not me?" I wanted them to think about why a college would want to admit them, and not why they will not get in. I sat down this morning to write my students a blog post about positive affirmations and how affirmations can change their outlook on life. However, my writing took on a spin of its own. Here is what I wrote... (apologies for the length)

I admit it. I am a Network Junkie. ABC, NBC, and once in while CBS - (on demand) - fell for Criminal Minds, well really Mandy Patinkin, but I digress. Pre-COVID my nightly routine consisted of getting into bed around 9:00, yes I am one of those early to bed VERY early to rise kind of people that a lot of people don't understand. I am up at 5:30ish every morning. I love it. I love the stillness, the quiet of the mornings. I sit on the couch (or in nice weather the porch), with my cup of coffee and my journal with Yogi's head gently in my lap. I take a breath - and so does he - and I plan out my day.

However, back to my love of network tv - a point of slight contention between my husband and I - he - a sports and news junkie doesn't understand my nightly need for a visit with Meridith Gray, Hank Voight, and let's not forget Oliva Benson (I was crushed when Elliot left the show without the two of them ever getting together - but there is hope, he is coming back with his own spin-off this fall!)

After my house was in order, I would climb into bed with my cup of tea and visit with my friends. It was my Zen. I am generally not a huge television watcher, but this 1 hour (ok, sometimes 2 hours) of my day was my time to unwind and disappear into another world.

Perhaps it is to grab a piece of my childhood - I have fond memories of sitting on the couch with my parents watching Hill Street Blues, Hart to Hart, and Quincy. Perhaps it is my way to block out the noise of the day. Or perhaps it is to fill some uncovered desire to be on television (I doubt this one, but let's go with it.)

COVID came, and my quiet time disappeared. Our family dinners ran later than usual; there were 5 of us eating at home again, so the kitchen was a mess. My kids, while they had work to do, cherished us sitting at the table talking or playing games. My husband and I, even though we were both working from home, finally had a chance to regroup and see each other for a few minutes. When I finally crawled into bed to tune into my favorite shows, I was faced with "and on tonights season finale" - OH NO… What am I going to do?

For a few weeks, I mourned the loss of my television family. I searched for replacements, but nothing filled the void. So I picked up my kindle, pre-COVID I was a "need to hold a book kind of girl" - but times are changing, and so I needed to adapt - and ordered a few books. I had always loved to read, but "never had the time to." Well guess what I did - and I do.

I have read novels, non-fiction, self-help books, and reread a childhood favorite, A Catcher in the Rye. I have laughed, cried, learned many lessons, and met so many new friends. Most of all, I have become inspired to finally write my story.

Every day, I work with students having them hone their stories into a 650-word personal statement. It isn't always easy, it isn't always pretty, but it brings me so much JOY watching them get to the finish line. At the end of each admissions season I take a moment and reread all of their essays and often find myself saying if they can write this well - if they can tell their stories so can I. I know I have a book in me, I just never sat down to do it.

One of the books I read during my nightly ritual was "Why Not Me?!: 12 lessons A Year on an Island Taught Me About Living My Dreams and How You Can Too?" by Stacy Hope Smalls, who happens to be a sorority sister of mine. We lost touch after I graduated, but I follow her on Facebook and knew she wrote a book about her journey to peace and finding JOY, my favorite word if you haven't noticed yet, but I never got around to reading it. I never had the time, Detective Benson and Officer Tutola (Ice-T's character) had occupied me. I read the book in 2 hours.

There are a lot of lessons in the book that one could take, and I am still digesting how I can apply some of the lessons Stacy learned while living on Maui without actually moving there - however, doesn't Maui seem nice right about now? The one thing that does not need more time to marinate is the first part of the title. "Why not me?!?" I just spent a week reminding my students that they can do whatever they want, become whoever they want to be. I am their cheerleader 24-7. It is time now for me to cheer myself on.

Goodnight, Meredith, Olivia, and Hank. Perhaps I will see you again in the fall. Until then, you will find me discovering new friends and discovering myself in the process.

Why not you?

Eydie Balsam


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