My student bursts into the classroom. “I’ve lost my paper! I didn’t save it properly and the whole thing is gone!” The exasperation in this student’s face is one I’ve seen many times before.
My student can’t get that paper back. He stands in front of me, small and hopeless. I’ve been there. I remember the first time it happened to me. I remember the discouragement, the anger, the desperation, and the embarrassment of it all when I forgot to save a term paper.
It’s not fair; it’s not right. But I told myself I had to move beyond what’s fair or right. I had to move beyond the anger and the shame.
I had to start again.
Students tell me that what they produce after the loss turns out stronger, more authentic, and more concise than the original paper. They build on the memory of what they once wrote and make something better. It’s not easy, and it never seems fair. Losing stuff is like that. I’m learning to take a loss and build on it somehow to create a marvelous new thing.
Otherwise, I get stuck in the anger.
This won’t be the last time we lose something that can’t be recovered. But beauty does arise from the ashes. I see it every semester with every lost paper. I see it in my own life with every thing I’ve ever lost. There’s a way to start again on the fresh page, remember what you had, and press your fingers down on the keys. You start letter by letter, word by word. Soon, you’re not just back where you started. You’re beyond in a beautiful far country that you never imagined existed. And the loss got you there.