Oh, I’m tired after a long day. Nevertheless:
An enigma of humans: we refuse to accept the thing we’ve been clamoring for. “Challenge me!” we demand, then find ways to avoid the challenge. “Love me!” we say, our faces twisted up and our foot stomping the floor – only to push away whatever love is offered.
I don’t think we’re inherently hypocritical, or even confused. But there is something that can feel like vertigo – we’re flying, but we don’t know how – when we succeed. It’s lonely up there, being successful. There seem to be more tea and sympathy just sitting on the comfortable couch of mediocrity.
My guess is that this is learned behavior, and when we strip it all away, we find that it is the labels of success and failure which produce such feelings of anxiety or numbness. Success and failure are relative terms of course, and come mainly from the judgment of others. It is judgment which determines the success or failure of actors, musicians, artists, politicians and so many others. Yes, their actions have much to do with it – Miles Davis is judged a great musician because of the quality of his music – but he still needed people to judge it so. And at some points, many people did not.
I say all this because the end of the semester is coming up and it never fails to surprise me how much anxiety grades cause in all parties: students, parents and teachers. We try to avoid that as much as possible by giving lengthy narrative comments along with grades, but inevitably the A or D carry too much of an emotional impact.
I tell the kids, “Do the work well and you won’t have to worry about the grade.” which is to say, if you concentrate on flying well, you’ll never notice how beautiful you are.