The slip-up: What a puddle of puke taught me about asking for help

For many, Kindergarten conjures up fond memories of finger painting, playdough and sing-alongs. Not me. A couple moments in particular stand out.

The first happened during art class. To minimize the mess caused by a room full of five-year-olds wielding paintbrushes and mediocre hand-eye coordination, Mrs. Long had helped us into kid-sized smocks, tying the strings behind our backs.

As I splattered gobs of red and green onto my canvas, I suddenly felt a fierce urge to pee. Intent on finishing my painting, I fought my biological needs as long as I could, squirming under the growing pressure. But it soon became clear that if I didn’t find a toilet right away, my creative juices wouldn’t be the only fluids flowing in the classroom.

Abandoning my paintbrush, I asked Mrs. Long if I could go to the washroom and hurried down the hall. However, when I arrived at the urinal, I realized I had another problem. I couldn’t get my smock off. Nor could I hoist it up high enough to access my zipper.

Now, the sensible thing to do would have been to run back to my teacher and ask for assistance in freeing me from the apron. Bu even at that young age, I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t do something on my own or risk embarrassment in front of my peers.

So I did the only other thing I could do: I straight up peed my pants.

You’d think that would take the cake as my most traumatizing experience in Kindergarten. But then there was the day one of my schoolmates vomited his guts out at the back of the classroom. With twenty rambunctious children in her charge, Mrs. Long didn’t have time to clean up the mess and left the puddle of puke with the promise to deal with it later.

Before long, my attention shifted away from Billy Barfbag’s regurgitation as I realized that it was almost recess time. Mrs. Long continued her lesson, but I was focused squarely on the clock above her head and the minute hand’s steady march toward the bell. I may have been at the front of the class and furthest from the exit, but I had every intention of being the first one to the monkey bars.

I sat coiled like a spring, quivering with anticipation. And then, what seemed like an eternity later, the minute hand hit its mark, triggering the triumphant clanging of the recess bell.

I exploded from my chair like an Olympic sprinter at the sound of the starter pistol. And before my Kindergarten cohorts had even closed their colouring books, I was racing to the back of the classroom towards freedom. Giddy at my head start, I rounded the last desk and headed for the door.

Of course, that’s when it happened. Suddenly, my feet were no longer under me. My view of the door became a view of the ceiling as I landed in the pool of vomit with a sickening squelch.

I lay on my back for a moment or two, winded and drenched from head to toe in my classmate’s barf. Once again, the right thing to do would have been to accept that I had slipped up (literally), found myself in a sticky situation (also literally) and needed a hand.

Instead, I clambered to my feet and just kept running, too mortified to stick around and too proud to ask for help to clean up my clothes.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have a lot of schoolyard chums to play with that day. Nobody likes a kid dripping in regurgitated breakfast.

Who’s on your team?

I still not great at asking for help. I hate the idea of being a burden or not being able to take care of something myself. But my Kindergarten catastrophes taught me that there are times in life when you need to swallow your pride and admit you need the strengths and support of others. Because the alternative is spending the rest of the day covered in urine or vomit.

No one is an island. There’s strength in numbers. Two heads are better than one. Whatever your preferred cliché, overcoming obstacles happens by having the right people by your side.

So who’s on your team? Take some time to identify some of the key players who can help you tackle a challenge. Who do you know who can provide you with motivation? Expertise? Distraction? A listening ear? On the flip side, who’s getting in your way of achieving your goals? Be mindful of negative people who might be draining your mojo.

Below are some of the roles various team members can play. Bottom line? Build a team that’s best equipped to handle the task at hand.

The Inner Circle

The Rock — Your Rocks are the people in your life you can depend on, no matter what. They’re the ones who’ll drop everything to help you, the ones you can freak out on and not worry it’ll ruin your relationship, the ones you can call at 2 a.m. to come get you after your car breaks down. They’re also the ones who will tell you straight up when you’re acting like a total jackass and the ones who’ll be more than happy to give your butt a whooping when it needs it.

The Motivator — Finding your way through the wilderness can be exhausting: physically, mentally and emotionally. When the tank is running low, seek out your Motivators: the ones who always have a supportive thing to say. Positive energy is contagious. One coffee date with a Motivator can reenergize you for days.

The Distractor — Some people will tell you to weed out all distractions and focus on the problem in front of you. However, although hard work and focus are critical, sometimes you just need a break. At those times, having someone you can go see a movie with and not talk about whatever you’re going through can be exactly what you need.

The Experts

The Pro — Who are the experts you’ll need on your team? If you’re starting a new business, it could be your web developer, banker, partner and accountant. If you’re facing something like cancer, it could be your doctors, nurses, acupuncturist and pharmacist. If you’re training for a marathon, it could be your personal trainer, nutritionist and the dude who can get you a deal on the gel that keeps your nipples from chafing.

The Mentor — Do you know someone who has experienced what you’re going through? Whether you’re looking for a new career, dealing with the loss of a loved on or picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a broken relationship, find someone who’s “been there, done that.” Not only for advice, but also for inspiration that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.

The Unbiased Ear — As great as friends and family can be at listening and understanding, your personal relationship and history means there will always be certain biases and baggage between you. You may be more willing and able to open up to professionals — be it therapists, support groups or the person at the other end of the crisis hotline — who can provide a more neutral and objective point of view.

The Ones to Be Wary Of

The Buzzkill — Also known as the Naysayer, Party Pooper or Sad Sack, the Buzzkill oozes negativity from his pores. Dissenting opinions and constructive feedback are great, but watch out for people who are doggedly pessimistic.

The Blocker — The Blocker has a knack of derailing your efforts. It could be the co-worker who doesn’t pull her weight or the micro-managing boss who doesn’t give you any creative latitude. It could be the friend who’s an expert at convincing you to go to an all-night kegger when you have an exam the next day. Keep Blockers off your team whenever you can.

The Biscuit — A Biscuit is someone who crumbles under pressure. When dealing with a big challenge, you want people on your team who know how to handle stress. For example, your mother may be the sweetest person in the world, but if she’s breaking down and yelling at your doctors every time you go in for a check-up, you may want to bring someone else along for your next appointment.

Josh Martin
Josh Martin is the creative force behind Badge of Awesome. He is the author of "Misadventure Musings: Lessons learned from life's awesome and absurd moments" and "The Overcoming Obstacles Handbook."

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