My mother and I sat down for lunch the other day. We’re really not the ladies who lunch type, so the talk over curry goat and cream soda was more logistics. After sketching out how to hang a curtain room divider on paper napkins, my mom did her predictable 15-minute goodbye dance. Before she left she handed me a Katie Couric book she had gotten at Sam’s. In big gold emboss on the cover was the title, “The Best Advice I Ever Got.”

“I saw it when I went to get the rice milk your father likes. It looks good- read it.”

My mother’s Sam’s club literary hunts usually end up with me reading the latest inspirational, corniness from Maria Shriver, and so I wanted to tell her she’d been hoodwinked into buying a graduation seasom gift. But in the pages of her latest find was an essay from General David Petraeus, Commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

A History major for life, I’ve always been fascinated by Gen. Petraeus. He is a military leader who has spend most of the past ten years away from his family, he is authoritative but unlike many of his fellow Bush-era appointees, incredibly humble. In his essay, he writes about the experience of going to Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy. He writes:

“Those experiences helped stretch my mind and my imagination, challenged my way of thinking…(it is) one of the main reasons I advise today’s young military leaders to go to graduate school, to do “off the wall” stuff. We all benefit from learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

For the past few weeks, I’ve been I waiting for that one week when things fall into place. But for some reason it keeps on hiding from me.

Last week, I was convinced it was under the piles of boxes in my bare apartment. The week before that, I was sure it was under the piles of clothes, shoes and books waiting to be packed up to go. This week, I have been telling myself that it’s in the boxes I haven’t unpacked yet. But more than likely, that one perfect week will be something I am still looking for when the next one comes along.

Learning to grow even when it does not seem like you have the perfect conditions can be just what you need to reach forward. Today, learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and rise higher either way.

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