Making the Grade

All too often we view the world with a pass or fail mentality.

From the time we start school we are comparing ourselves to others. Did our friends get a smiley face or a frown, an A or a C on the paper or report card. As adults we measure pass and fail in other ways. Wrinkles, gray hair, jobs, even the condition of our house and the type of car we drive can leave us feeling as though we aren’t making the grade.

How can we have contentment in life when we are constantly comparing ourselves to others? The answer: we can’t.

When I was in high school I thought I had this brilliant plan on how my life would go. Like most kids, I assumed life works according to plan and like most graduates, I quickly realized it doesn’t. In fact, I didn’t even make it out of high school before my life plan began to change. My goal of remaining single and being career military was forever altered when I fell in love. Suddenly I went from looking at airplanes to looking at wedding dresses. It took me a long time to realize that just because my plans changed it didn’t mean I had failed.

I feel we are far too often unnecessarily hard on ourselves. We have this notion of what perfection should be and when we don’t hit that mark we beat ourselves up. My house doesn’t look like June Cleaver’s, I can’t dance, and I certainly have wrinkles and gray hair and a less than toned physique. But does any of that make me less of a human being or define me as a failure? Not at all, if anything, it shows that I am human and living.

There is no report card in life. Nobody is going to give you a gold star for hitting some theorized point of achieving a standard. We all live. We all die. Plain and simple. But what we do in between those two points, that’s what makes you you. That’s your story.

Think of it like this. In school the goal was to get an A. If individuals were like a math test, every answer would be the same for every paper and everyone would have an A. That would make the teacher happy,but how boring would that be? Imagine over 7.8 billion 2+2=4 scattered over the planet! Even a math teacher would get tired of that redundancy.

But now take an essay that is open topic, the variations of what you get will be as varied as those 7.8 billion people. Some people may write on a similar topic, but their word choice and sentence structure will be uniquely theirs, like a fingerprint.

(Now, for all those math and science people out there, I know there’s some funky math that can cause all kinds of variables, but for the sake of this demonstration we are doing basic math here, so just humor me a little, alright.)

The point is, quit comparing yourself to your friends, cousins, celebrities, and even your past self. Embrace who you are right now. Does that mean you can’t improve on you? Absolutely not! You want to be the best version of yourself, but know who’s setting the standards and why.

Again, we will reference the essay. I can write a sentence that sums up a thought, but if I add more sentences, maybe even throw in some paragraphs…well then I can produce a more comprehensive vision of my thought. Even with the math problem we can add a little flare: 1+1+2 or 1+1+1+.5 + .5 (you get the idea).

However, the changes I make should not be brought about from a guilt of not measuring up to somebody else’s standards, but because I wanted to grow and change for my own standards and satisfaction.

Life isn’t a report card of clearly defined grades, it’s an art that takes on many forms and interpretations and is truly appreciated in the eye of the Beholder.

But if you really want a grade, use the pre-school grading method to measure your growth – do you smile or do you frown.

-Pax tibi.


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