Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gold Stars

I haven't posted about the horror that is school for a little while. Mostly that's because it has become a horror that I have built up a tolerance for. And by "tolerance" I do not mean that it has gotten any easier, or better, or more manageable. I simply mean, that I don't notice quite as much how difficult, terrible, and unmanageable it all is. Or to put it in another way, last semester was like jumping into a frigid, glacial ocean of water. Like think Titanic and icebergs and all that. The sheer shock of how daunting and demanding and arduous it all was almost literally knocked the breath right out of me. This semester: even more difficult classes and even more credit hours. Yet, instead of being shocked I am now just numb. The water is no warmer, and I am no less close to dying (ya know, figuratively.) I am simply resigned. And sometimes resignation can be a good thing. I mean, it's gotten me through 14 years of marriage and nearly 20 years of parenting.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy anything about being in school. I do like to learn and all that. Mostly I just feel so overwhelmed that school is just one more thing on my endless to-do list rather than a truly enlightening experience. I have noticed, though, that there is one thing that I am truly, secretly enjoying about school. We'll call it quantifiability. Do I know if that is actually a real word? No. I took my English 1010 class decades ago. But we'll pretend for the sake of explanation that it is. To put it one way, we spend hours upon weeks upon months upon years doing things that simply need to be done. Sometimes we perform these tasks well. Other times, not so much. Most of the time, most of the things we do go unnoticed, unseen and often unappreciated. Sometimes we do get feedback, but it rarely correlates with the effort we put forth. If your mother-in-law pops in for a quick surprise visit and the house is a disaster does that mean that you never spend anytime cleaning? Uh, no. If your kids mess up or make mistakes or bad choices, like  - let's say peeing in places that aren't the toilet, does that mean you're a bad parent? Nope. (I seriously hope not, anyway.) If these same imperfect kids refuse to eat what you made for dinner because it "looks like crap" does that mean that you don't know how to cook? Totally not. (And it was delicious, by the way.)  Do you get extra credit when you go above and beyond? Or when you help a friend or a neighbor or a stranger? Not a single point. 

Do you see what I'm getting at here? There are no grades in life. Rare "Well Done!" or "Excellent Work!" comments from others. No GPA. No Honor Roll. No Cum Laude, Magna, Summa or otherwise. No Latin honors at all. In fact, I am fairly certain I will be graduating from life Exhaustus Est Emin ad Mortem. Yep, Exhausted Unto Death. BUT, for right now and for the next couple/few years, I get grades. Actual quantifiable proof that the effort I put in deserves recognition. A real-life LETTER and NUMBER that say, Hey, good job! I didn't realize until a couple weeks ago how much I truly enjoy this. It dawned on me when I was checking my grades (which I know for a fact are good right now) for like the 5th time in 3 days. Because they are pretty. And because it makes all the time I spend look like...well, something. So when I feel like I suck at pretty much everything else, I can just pull those bad boys up and see that I'm only sucking at some things. Not absolutely everything.

You see. If I spend 14 hours on a 20 page statistics take-home exam (and I did) and earn 49.5 out of 50, well I can feel pretty dang good about it. Do you know what I get when I spend any amount of hours cleaning my house? Or doing laundry? Or years of my life raising children? Tired. And for a VERY brief moment, a somewhat clean house, and MOSTLY finished laundry, and SOMETIMES kids who make good choices or are kind and decent. No A. No 90%. No 4.0. Just more work that needs to be done.

And I know. I know. It doesn't matter, these grades. The things that mean the most in life are not things that are quantifiable. The things that bring true joy are worth the work and effort all on their own. They are their own reward. I know. 

But that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy my grades for just a little bit. 

And it doesn't mean that we all don't deserve gold stars just for hanging in there. Just for being us. Just for holding on. 

Because we do. We so totally do. 

So I'll say it. Because you have earned it. Excellent work, my fellow students of life. Excellent work.

1 comment:

  1. I put down a gold star for you every day in my gradebook-that's-really-my-heart. Just so you know. But I totally get this. A few weeks ago, I went back through to read some old English papers I had written just so that I could remember that I'm smart and that not absolutely everything I do is destined to be met with indifference, feigned tolerance, or outright opposition.