Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A lesson learned: the pivotal role of adolescence and who we become thereafter

Poet John Ciardi once said, "You don't have to suffer to be a poet; adolescence is enough suffering for everyone." My post today is going to focus on the latter part of that quote: "adolescence is enough suffering for everyone."

Lately I have been deeply thinking about this stage in life, about how many crucial decisions are made whilst delving through it. I think about the person I am now, and how my experiences in those formative years have shaped my entire life thereafter. It's a sobering thought sometimes, to think that if I had perhaps made different, less "prudent" decisions, that I could be somewhere markedly different than I am today. Thus I am grateful that I passed through some trials, or "suffering" as it were, in my adolescent years, because these experiences helped me gain a greater perspective, one that has become an integral part of the person I am today.

On to an embarrassing admission of such experiences...

When I was in the sixth grade, I thought that it would be a good idea to run for seventh grade officer (as a way to combat my shyness and to meet new people in the new amazing world of junior high school). I figured I might have a good chance because only my elementary school would be voting, and each elementary school would send a representative they'd elected to junior high. Needless to say, I lost. But I was not to be discouraged.

After taking a year off of running for student office, I ran again for ninth grade office, tenth grade office, eleventh grade office, student body office, and senior class office.

I never made it past the first round. (I know, pretty pathetic right? I mean I had some BRILLIANT campaign posters... the "Just for the 'L' of it" campaign probably being one of my favorites.)

As a last ditch effort, I applied for Student Body Historian (which I thought I'd have a good shot at since it was an appointed position and I was a total nerd.)

Didn't get that either. It was my last chance, and I was rejected.

Sometimes, much to my embarrassment, my mother uses this story as an illustration of a life lesson, that I didn't even realize I was learning at the time. She infuses in this story a conversation we had (which I vaguely remember) when I had lost, yet again, and was undoubtedly crying. She lovingly inquired why I kept running for office, when every loss hurt more than the last. And I replied, "Well, if I don't at least try, how will I ever know what the outcome would have been?"

This story doesn't have an entirely pathetic ending. I did end up getting appointed as Senate President my senior year, and was able to be in the student government class and fully function in that role. But it took me 6 years, 6 elections and 7 rejections to get there. I appreciated it so much more because of that. And, to this day, I think I had to suffer through all of that rejection and disappointment to help me become a better person. To help me gain a confidence in myself that was and is not dependent on the opinions of others. To help me become a better version of myself.

Today, I share this very personal and very embarrassing story because someone I love is also faced with disappointment this day. In spite of his talent, hard work and dedication, he is experiencing rejection due to a broken and political system that seems to worsen as the years roll on. I have previously shared my opinions about the flaws of a "hypothetical" high school's sports program and reiterate it this day. And while I fully concede that the favoritism and politics that exist therein are pretty much pervasive in modern society, I still think it's a shame. I think it's a shame the best players don't always play. That their coaches are too concerned with their own mediocre children and their "favorites" that good kids who work hard don't get to play.

It would be one thing if said "good kids" were not good enough to play, but that's just not the case. In some ways I hate that my loved one has to go through this. But, on the other hand, perhaps this will teach him something similar to what I learned: that life is so much more than high school and popularity and peer pressure. That being a good and conscientious person means more in the eternal scheme of things than if you were a star fill-in-the-blank in high school. I'm just sorry he doesn't get to play a game he loves and is so good at because of unqualified and narcissistic high school coaches. I think it's a shame that he has to learn this lesson in this way, rather than learn equally important lessons from the discipline and work ethic that sports require and provide. I think it's a shame that in such an affluent area, the structures within the public school system are beginning to settle for mediocrity and idiocy.

But, adolescence is tricky. Adolescence is tough.

Especially when your coaches and teachers have not progressed beyond that pivotal stage.


Time to Blog It Up! said...

Good post, so on the mark. I know just how hard it can be to see others miss out on something that they are so good at. We went through this with the baseball program, sad that only those who are politically correct get to play, while someone who has a great god-given gift, but alas not the money...oops did I say that, to play, and has totally lost any desire to fight against the system. oh well, I guess a person just moves on and grows into a stronger person and one who maybe understands how to play fair, in the end. Have a great day. Tamee

Andrew and Maren said...

That was a grat post and someone very close to me has currently fone through the same thing. It is very sad and politically incorrect. I hope things get better!

Blogdor said...

What is really going to prepare your brother for real life? Letting him play basketball because he's actually qualified, or watching someone else play because of money/connections/roots/etc. I guess he'll have to wait until he applies for a few university scholarships, or a graduate level study program. I'm just saying he might be glad he had some early, seemingly unjust, disappointments .