Wednesday, December 19, 2007

living up to my potential

With one semester under my belt, here in my seventeenth year of formal schooling, I have my first 4.0. I worked hard for it. I obsessed over it. And when my grades appeared on the Hastings College website I did a little nerd dance. I didn't obsess over the GPA itself, but over the individual A's. This is a new thing for me. I've always been sort of a slacker. I've always skated by with charm, humor and as little work as it would take to get me a 3.0. But a flip has been switched, my friends, and I love that 4.0.

In high school I knew I had to maintain the 3.0 for the sake of my parents (who would have preferred a 3.3 as that was the fabled cut-off GPA for the Tri Delts at Mizzou). But a 3.0 seemed right to me too--not stupid, not caring too much. I had no internal motivation to do any better and I carefully walked the line, balancing my C's in math and science with my A's in English and Spanish for a good solid B average. I had pom-pons and musicals to think about. I had boys to deal with with and spiritual crises. There was student council and zits and boobs out of proportion to the rest of my body. How could I really care about school?

In college I sort of floundered. It was hard to be away from home for the first time--figuring out how to do laundry, how to manage time, how to stay sane in a ridiculous sorority I never should have joined. I transferred after my freshman year and had to go through the adjustments all over again. I got by. I did fine. I just didn't really get it until, with two semesters left, I switched my major from Spanish to English and took almost nothing but literature courses until I graduated. My GPA shot up. I made a point to show up to class. I enjoyed writing papers. I got to know and like my professors. It was so great--and then it was over.

About a year ago, I was in a funk and had a hard time first identifying and then admitting what exactly it was I was feeling. Firstly, I was feeling unfocused. I spent my time doing a lot of worth-while and fulfilling things. I was raising my children, teaching Sunday School, leading book group, serving on the Library Board, working with the Listening Room and pursuing my hobby music career. All great things. But they were so scattered and varied and separate that they weren't building towards anything. That was becoming dissatisfying.

Secondly--this is the part that was hard to admit--I craved acknowledgement. Being a stay-at-home-Mom is the end-all, be-all of internal rewards. Of course it was rewarding! Of course Paul acknowledged my work and of course I could look at Phoebe, Mo & Ollie and see the fruits of my labor. Of course those things were true in a big-picture sense. But on a daily basis I could not measure and see if I was doing well. I got no paycheck that said "you're work is worth this much to our company and if you keep it up we'll give you more." And I know that all the volunteer work I have done is appreciated--I know I've made good contributions to organizations and enjoyed doing it and those who I served and served with think I've done a good job. But after eight years of stay-at-home/volunteering, I really needed a little external reward. I can only be so deep. I can only be so zen. I was ready to be complimented and petted and told that I'm great. I was ready for somebody to give me money! I was ready to have a clearly marked measuring stick and see how far up it I could reach.

So I am now grade-obsessed.

My hope is that this will fade. My goal, of course, is to learn, not just get good grades and I have learned a tremendous amount this semester. I really went in having no idea what the standards were or how my work would compare--I graduate from college twelve years ago! So I was anxious and eager to make sure I was up to snuff. It feels good to know that I am.


Anonymous said...

Emily-HI, It's Alisa. I've never been on a blog before!(right now Alexis is making fun of me) I want to see you sing and play guitar. Do you have that on your blog? Love you and your blog!
Alexis is really making fun of me now, I am laughing so hard im crying and my face is red (Sofie told me to put that in there). I love blogging!

emdunbar said...

Alisa & Alexis! Hello! I don't know what happened to Alexis's comment--it was here and then it vanished. I LOVED Wicked. Alexis and I discussed how you (Alisa)almost let me drown/freeze to death in the creek. However, we did not discuss Alisa giving me swim lessons in the bathtub. Do you remember that? Alexis, I am glad you have introduced your mom to the world of blogging and that it all happened here on my blog :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily it's Alexis, my mom didn't tell me about that, but she did tell us about the time Allison and my mom played doctor w/ you and how they put that cream on you and gave you a huge rash! :)

emdunbar said...

Ah, I believe you are referring to the Comet-Abrasive-Cleaner-as-baby-powder incident. This was nost unpleasant, as I'm sure you can imagine. However, it has made me the tough woman I am today :) Merry Christmas!