I wrote this post for a very special someone a few months ago. I never posted it. While reading my journal, I realized this is a perfect not-back-to-school post and something I want to keep fresh in my mind as we approach our first year of homeschooling high school......
Sometimes I wonder what my girls think of all the “pomp and circumstance” that takes place this time of year. We live in a part of the country that is saturated with private schools for all areas of education, from pre-K to elementary to elite boarding schools and private universities. This is the time of year that the students don their caps and gowns and speakers sing the praises of their accomplishments before sending them out into the world or onto their next phase in their continuing education.
I wonder how this feels for the child who either does not attend school or perhaps does, but hates every moment of it. What if you know that your life is not defined by school, by grades, by academic accolades, by the price tag of your tuition, by the worth of your alma matter or by your cumulative GPA? How do you feel when society (or family) judges you by these quantitative measures? How do you measure up when you don’t define yourself by the same set of standards?
What if you goals are more personal and cannot be quantitatively defined? How does volunteering with the homeless or providing love and care for the abused and neglected animals tossed aside by their owners fare against an A in a AP American History class?
I remember so clearly being in high school and coming home from the awards night in tears because I felt I let down my parents because I only received one award and as is the case in most schools, one or two students (I will never forget their names even though I never spoke to them again after graduation) received the majority. I wish I could hug my 17 year old self and gave myself the same advise I recently gave another young person.
Look around this group of people. Some have accomplished great things according to the criteria that is used for judgement. Some have perfect SAT scores, some are headed to Ivy League Institutions, some won the department award for their achievements in math, science or language arts. They played by the rules set forth by their academic institution and they succeeded. For some of these children this is their pinnacle. High School (or college) will always be looked upon as the best 4 years of their life. I think this is sad. Some of the kids in the senior class are looked over, passed by, and perhaps even ignored because they don’t care about the rules of school. For them life is not what happens within the hallowed institutional halls. They may be just hanging on, biding their time, scraping by until that final bell rings setting them free. For these kids high school will not be the best experience of their life. They will not reach their pinnacle at 18 or 19, 20, or 21. For them the best is yet to come. These kids, these non-conformers, these kids that struggle to comprehend quadratic equations, and care nothing for string theory, will find their own brilliance as entrepreneurs, as advocates for social change, as masters of social media and as followers of the Do Hard Things movement. These kids simply can’t find their zen in school, for school is not for the zen educational experience.
To my 17 year old self I would say please don’t judge yourself so harshly. Be kind to your soul for it is kind and loving and true. These 4 years are just a snapshot of one moment of your life. They can never compare with the moments that will define your life; the moments of greatness that are great because you set the standards that define greatness. That moment you conquer a fear, the moment you step so far out of your comfort zone you literally change who you are, the moment you give your love willingly and consciously to another, the moment life begins within you, the moment you realize that life is about so much more than you. All these things are waiting for you to discover.
Do not judge yourself by standards set by the Board of Education or by the College Board. Judge yourself by a much higher set of standards.
Are you true to yourself?
Are you kind?
Are you seeking to learn because it interests you?
Are you using your life in a positive way?
Do you have compassion?
Do you have integrity?
Are you a friend?
Can you persevere in times of strife?
Can you risk failure?
Can you do hard things?
Yes. Yes you can. Because you are capable of greatness. Now set out to discover what your greatness will be and enjoy the process of self discovery.