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Perhaps my greatest accomplishment thus far is managing to survive kindergarten. I was definitely a weird child; not weird in the sits-in-a-corner-eating-paste sense, but certainly strange and, at times, overly cautious. During circle time, I made my own circle away from the group. During story time, I wove tales that highlighted my irrational fear of escalators. I also had the ability to get myself into unusually bizarre, compromising situations.
One fateful February day at the Somerset Hills Montessori School, my head became lodged in an antique wooden chair. At the time, my eccentric best friend Amanda and I enjoyed playing a game called “Paper Towel Roll;” the game consisted of us sliding our bodies through the rungs on the back of a chair. We played this game for months before “The Incident.”
It was not an ordinary day-it was Fire Awareness Day. Shortly after a local fireman taught us how to “Stop, Drop, and Roll,” Amanda and I resumed our favorite game. After Amanda got through a few times, I took my turn. I got through the chair not once, not twice, but three times. Obviously, I thought, the fourth time would be a breeze. I was wrong. My body froze; there was no escape. My head was lodged between two perfectly handcrafted, aged pieces of wood.
Amanda’s eyes widened, clearly stunned. She stared at me for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, she went to get help. Within seconds, my headmistress, Miss Glusa, stormed into the room. Scolding me in her thick German accent, she said: “Miss Feller, if you got your head IN the chair, you have to be able to get your head OUT of it!” After calling upon the fireman for help, the fireman finally freed my head and I could breathe again.
The aftermath of “The Incident” was even more traumatic than the actual event–for the days following, I was laughed at and teased. Afraid I would forever be known as “that girl who got her head stuck in a chair,” I grew even more cautious. I stopped playing “Paper Towel Roll” with Amanda and even became exceedingly cautious on the playground. I realize that perhaps my excessive caution following the incident is why I consider it a traumatic childhood moment.
Today, I approach situations with the same tenacity and intensity as I did at the age of five when playing childhood games. Since kindergarten, however, I have learned to balance risk with caution; this approach has proven important in my studies, at my job at a local shoe store, and in social situations. In addition, balancing the two is essential in the business world-I have not only learned that the greater the risk, the greater the return, but also that every situation should be approached with a measure of caution. And, more importantly, I learned never ever to allow myself to fall into another situation where my head might get stuck in a chair.
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