There is a central flaw in our society. And no, it doesn’t have orange hair or a headline beginning with ‘allegation’ and ending with ‘fired,’ so shake your etch-a-sketch clear.
Because the flaw I have found is more pervasive.
And it’s nothing new. In fact, this flaw is the concept around which much of our ideologic infrastructure is built. And it’s a concept that we all have the responsibility to change: the concept of Nate.
Nate was a young boy in a class I taught. He was five when we met, ten when I left the teaching position. He had a fascination with cars and loved playing games on the white board. He could write in his workbook for hours, but could only ever grip the pencil in the palm of his hand, his letters often large and illegible. He was never very neat, even for a young boy, and would fall into anxious habits without even noticing. If he didn’t have a stress ball or toy in his hand, there would soon be blood dripping from his face. It’s not that he wanted to hurt himself, but his mind and body always had to work. When he was angry, he had little control. But when learned something new, he filled the room with enthusiasm. Those moments, however, were far and few between.
For every ten steps his classmates took, Nate had to take fifty. For every lesson his classmates learned, Nate learned one-eighth. Every day in the classroom, Nate fell behind. Grades were simply reminders of a fact he already knew. Academic games he could never win were simply public demonstrations of how hard it was for him to even try. The system around him, the system around which our society is built – with evaluations and standardized expectations and celebration only of success – simply served to point out his flaws.
Still, Nate kept showing up. He kept trying. He kept learning and filling the room with his enthusiasm. He always kept his body hunched over, his head someone down. But I never did get the idea that he was hiding or ashamed. Rather, Nate seemed to be focusing. He seemed to be tuning out the messages the world was feeding him and focusing simply on what he needed to do in that moment.
Unfortunately, the world didn’t let Nate grow up in his difference, medication calming him down until he could simply blend in.
Though Nate had a syndrome to face, we all, at one point or another, have been Nate. When receiving rejection. When being left out of the group. When being told we could have done better, and realizing that what we gave was truly our best.
We are all imperfect. And the world is built to put that imperfection right in our face. Job evaluations. School marks. Interpersonal schisms. The world shows us our challenges.
And face-to-face with our flaws, it is up to us to remember the one thing the world often forgets to share:
We can always do better. (And I mean that in the best of ways!)
If you score perfectly on an exam, great. But is your learning actually complete? If you and a friend celebrate a five-year friend-versary, fun! But does your relationship really have no room to grow?
The world we live in puts growth on a zero to one-hundred scale, with success being this attainable score at the top. And if you are anything less than perfect, the world is here to point that out, and remind you to do better, try harder, achieve more. You could be as perfect as that other guy getting a 100 over there. Can you imagine that? 😉
And it’s really a great system – if we were all the same human being with the same mind and capabilities.
Of course, we aren’t. We are all some version of Nate. We are all some version of a caring, incredible person with unique challenges and strengths. We are all on our own zero to one-hundred scales. And we are all responsible for reminding those around us that their great leaps of progress or small steps of growth are equally incredible.
- So your life is at a different stage than your neighbor’s? That’s okay.
- So you’re excelling at a faster rate than your classmate? That’s fine.
- So you could do better on an arbitrary scale? Yep. That’s true. You can always do better.
The world isn’t going to change overnight. Our minds aren’t simply going to rewire into the peace Nate found when blocking out the comparisons and judgments being made around him. He took years to build that skill. He still, often, forgot it.
But, in sharing his strengths, Nate taught me a mantra I will never forget, a mantra we all have the gift of sharing with those around us:
Don’t ever believe you are not good enough.
© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.