Lessons learned from someone else’s toothbrush

by Andrea Kemp

It was an early weekday morning as I stumbled out of bed and found myself semi-conscious, standing in front of my sink. I reached for a toothbrush, smeared some toothpaste across its bristles and began to brush.

“Funny,” I thought, “This toothbrush feels, odd.”

I continued to brush for almost a full minute before I pulled the toothbrush out.

It wasn’t until that moment that I realized it wasn’t mine.

Startled and stunned, but most definitely awake, I knew I had two choices: I could replace the toothbrush in its holder and make a huge scene, washing my mouth out with soap, Listerine, Tide With Bleach or anything that could provide my mouth with sanitation, or I could let the whole incident go and not let it ruin my entire day.

Lucky for me, in this case, I chose the latter option, and it worked.

I hardly thought of my toothbrush two-step dance I had performed that morning with the wrong partner. Still, the incident has since made me think of how I view other mishaps in my life.

I think many Simpson students are like me, in that they were able to go through high school doing absolutely every activity they wanted with about 20 percent effort, and still were able to miraculously glide through without so much as a hitch.

Now, suddenly we are in college, and classes, extracurricular activities and our jobs all take 100 percent of our effort, with no room for error.

How do we deal with this sudden shift in percentages?

I first dealt with the problem by being a perfectionist and assuming that physically, emotionally and mathematically, it was possible to give 100 percent of my efforts to more than one thing. Whenever I was proved wrong, I ended up angry at myself for making a mistake that was ultimately going to happen anyway.

One semester later, I had turned in papers the wrong way, misread assignments, confused meeting times and made more than my share of errors at my internship.

Funny as it sounds, it took one toothbrush for me to make sense of it all and stop beating myself up every time something went awry.

I realized there are times when I won’t get it all right or have it all together. There are times when I just won’t have my head on straight.

Still, letting a mistake get in the way of finishing a job or learning from your error is almost like letting yourself make the mistake all over again. When life hands you the wrong toothbrush, put it back and go on with your day.