How you handle mistakes tests character

I wonder what the odds are of heading off to the University of Minnesota, all excited about conquering the wonderful world of academia, only to find out you are one week early.
I wonder what the odds are of doing that twice in a lifetime.
Twenty-five years ago, I entered my first year at the U one week prematurely. I have absolutely no idea what I was or was not thinking at the time. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. When it dawned on me what I had actually done, I was so frustrated and ashamed that I started to cry.
Too embarrassed to go back home, I drove around aimlessly for a while, then ended up at the Mann Southtown movie theater. I sat through two screenings of “The Way We Were.”
That was the first time I had ever attended a movie by myself. I sat alone for hours crying over Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford and my own stupidity.
Well, last week I did it again — 25 years later, almost to the day.
I don’t know how or why I was so confused. I left work promptly at 1 p.m. and headed straight to the Minneapolis campus. I actually found a parking spot out on the street not far from Dinkytown (I should have taken that as a sign.)
It was a perfect day — mid-60s, a cool, crisp breeze and not a cloud in the sky. I allowed plenty of time to stroll around and soak up the atmosphere. It was great to be back at the university again. I was excited about the prospect of learning new things and the many challenges that lie ahead.
I didn’t look at the dates on my registration form until 2:20 p.m., when it became obvious that I was the only “Intermediate Literary Non-Fiction” student that decided to beat the rush and arrive one week early.
That old feeling began bubbling up inside of me. “Jill, you idiot! What are you doing here so soon? Can’t you read the darn registration sheet?”
This time I didn’t drive around aimlessly for hours and end up alone in some dark movie theater crying my eyes out to a sappy love story. I stopped off at the grocery store, bank and carwash. I helped my daughter with a school project, made a terrific dinner and folded laundry.
Not one tear was shed over my absentmindedness. Is it because I’ve done oh-so-many stupid things over the last 25 years that somehow this seemed pretty insignificant? Is it because I’m just too busy to waste time feeling sorry for myself? Or, maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally grown up.
After telling my two teenagers my tales of woe, we had a good chuckle and decided in honor of this momentous day we would head up to Blockbuster and rent “The Way We Were.” I haven’t seen that movie since I sat alone sobbing all those years ago. It’s funny. That movie wasn’t nearly as sad this time around!
Jill Lutgens is a “seasoned” student at the University.