As the air starts to cool and fall gets closer, I’m always reminded of a feeling I used to have as a kid – that “back to school” feeling, in the pit of my stomach.
It’s not that I didn’t like school. I did like it: I liked learning, being with my friends all day, playing sports, most of my teachers…my home life was tough growing up and I liked the sense of community that came with going to school.
But I didn’t like being graded. I studied hard, but I was never an A student – to say the least. I didn’t test well, and writing papers was usually a struggle. In the end, I got into Syracuse University from John Dewey High School, but that was by the skin of my teeth – my SATs and grades were subpar. I got into college mainly thanks to my extracurricular activities and by doing a great sales job with the admissions counselor who interviewed me. And it’s not like that changed my academic confidence much; passing my college classes was a battle as well.
Suffice it to say, every fall, I dreaded another year of being judged academically. And too often, the fact that I didn’t excel as much in my studies as some of my peers made me feel lesser.
When you’re a kid, your world is pretty small, and school is a big part of it. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking school is who you are. That it defines you. You don’t realize that your life is going to become so much more than that. It’s going to be about family, and friends, and passions, and simple hobbies, and your career – which, surprisingly, isn’t too affected by how good your grades were(!) – and a billion other things.
But the thing is, we’re always little kids inside, and now and again, we all still slip into that mindset of feeling like our life is just about one thing. And too often, it’s that thing that maybe isn’t going too well.
Something bad happens at work and we let it get us down in a way that’s out of proportion with the rest of our lives. We forget we have loving friends and families, and passions that also give our life real purpose. We forget how much fun we get out of simple pleasures, like watching a ballgame, or eating our favorite food, or laughing at a silly movie. By the same token, we get into a spat with a kid or a parent, or another loved one, and we let that define the relationship, forgetting about all the rest of it. The reasons we love that person in the first place.
We start feeling like the kid who thinks he’s defined by his grades – and doesn’t realize there’s a whole other life of experiences and people out there, just waiting for him.
How about you? Do maintain a sense of proportion? Or do you slip into letting isolated parts of your life define how you feel about yourself, like the student dreading going back to school?
That’s why they say that if you have your health, you have everything. Because aside from your health, there’s never one thing that can bring the rest of you down.