Friday, March 11, 2011

Perhaps they knew me better than I thought...

Last week I had a message from my Dad to tell me that in a sort-out of his house he found a bible that was given to me by my High school as a "prize" in my last year there.

I am not sure if it is just a British invention, but "Prize day" was an important event. Prizes were given to students for achievements in various subjects or accomplishments. I was always a mediocre student. I was never the brightest button in the pile and as such never excelled in a particular subject. I tried and although I never failed, I never shined. I didn't mind, I am who I am and even then I was fully aware that academia was never my strong point.

Despite teachers comments I continued school after 16, (It's not compulsory to be in school to 18), and I took my A-level (senior exams). Again, I tried hard, but I was never more than an average student. It was a surprise then, when in my last term in school I was told I was going to receive a School Prize at the "Prize Day". I was going to receive the "Armstrong prize for Endevour". I remember thinking at the time that it was a made-up prize. Almost as if the school felt they HAD to give me something because I had just spent 5 years of my life there, but I wasn't good enough at an subject to get an academic prize.

I chose a Bible as my prize -it had to be a book, vaguely useful, and I was in a "religious phase" at the time. My one and only school prize.

A definition of endevour is as follows:
"earnest and conscientious activity intended to do or accomplish something"

Looking back, I now wonder if the teachers that voted for me to have that prize actually knew me better than I knew myself.

When I was 18 I was in a culture where achievement was seen as academic accomplishments. Grades, exam marks; all the right ticks in all the right boxes. My view of the world was so narrow. This was something I was never going to excel at. I never counted myself as a failure, but I wasn't a success.

Now I am older and perhaps a little wiser. I look back over the last 20 years and I see everything I have managed and everything I have done. I have met so many people, seen so many places, lived so many different "lives". I now know that achievement is about how we grow into ourselves and what we do to make our lives a richer tapestry. It's not about meeting defined expectations of others, but it's about the relationships we make, the places we go, the events we experience. It's about meeting the expectations we have of ourselves. A few of my friends have posted about how "Home is where they are in a state of peace and not a place of possessions". I wonder if I would have been happier being in the same place all my life, with the same friends, but with the academic achievements and tangible possessions I craved when I was 18. No, I wouldn't. I am glad I was mediocre at school, because it allowed me the time and freedom to investigate other places, my other strengths and find new adventures.

So as I contemplate my old award for endevour, I wonder if the teachers at my school saw the person I would be before I did. Did they realise that I would employ "earnest and conscientious activity", but not in accomplishing degrees or certificates, but in something a lot more important, a full and vibrant life. Did they know me better than I thought...

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how some things can come full circle like that and how age gives you a new perspective on things.

    In 9th grade I got the award for "Most improved"...what the hell is that?