If Only I’d Known: Letters to Lost Years: 1983.1

Dear x:

You stay up late doing extra homework because you’re not the best in your class and you want to be.  I admire how hard you are willing to work, but I have to ask – why is it so important to you to be the best?  In a couple years, you will barely remember the names of most of the kids in your class.  No one will compare you to them.  I’d so very much like you to learn not to compare yourself.

It’s nice to win awards and earn first place, but when you set that as your goal, you are trying to achieve something over which you have no control.  It can lead to unnecessary disappointment.  Focus on what you have the power to change: yourself.  Reframe your goals and put your effort into being your best.

Who cares if you win – if you are better than others – if you haven’t given your all?   If you haven’t pushed yourself to do more than you thought you were capable, you haven’t really achieved much.  The satisfaction of an accomplishment comes from stretching yourself to overcome a challenge.

Likewise, if you have given all you can, practiced and tried, then who cares if there is someone out there better than you?  Let that provide a benchmark and a goal.  Don’t see it as a sign of your failure.  Everything is a learning opportunity.

Speaking of learning, don’t forget that’s why you are in school.  Not to prove anything, but to prepare yourself; to learn about yourself and understand your world.  What interests you?  What makes you excited?  What would you like to understand better?  Don’t forget that on those late nights when you’re doing extra credit just so you can move ahead.

From day 1, at the heart of every lesson in every school should be an explanation of why it is relevant to life – there is a reason for every fact we learn.  Not every class will be interesting or easy, but we can take from it something that will help us know our world a bit better and prepare us for the future.  If they aren’t teaching that to you, then think it through, ask yourself or the people around you why what you’re learning matters.

Sorry, I digress.  The point I want to make is simply this: try to enjoy and appreciate what you’re learning.  Figure out what interests you. Focus on your effort and your knowledge, on knowing more.

Being best in the class, little one, is less important than learning as much as you possibly can – improving yourself.  Don’t define yourself by where you stand in relation to others.  Define yourself by what you attempt to achieve compared to what you are capable of achieving.

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Published in: on February 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am glad that you have learned that lesson while still young. I hope it can be passed on!!!!

  2. This is beautiful, wise. I love how you seem to have started in the middle of something (or am I wrong?), but it makes it feel like the letters have been discovered. The feeling of nostalgia it creates is overwhelming. And powerful. Beautiful.


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