Late Night Thoughts With Lu: The End Goal

I made a total fool of myself in front of the class. I had written an exercise on the board, and directed the class to do it. Soon enough, Cameron and Miller came up with the same answer, while Ethan came up with a different one. Ethan is wicked smart and quick, so I told the other two they must have done something wrong. Then, as we went through the exercise, it was evident Ethan was wrong while the other two were right. Embarrassed and feeling the fool, I apologized profusely to them, as they graciously assured me they felt no harm. Ah, where did I lose my way?

Every year, as the fall bleeds into winter, there’s a coy game played between the grads. It starts with “Where are you applying?” and then sometimes proceeds to a vague and evasive dialogue. There’s a sense of not wanting others to know, in case you don’t get in, in case they feel you’re reaching too high, in case they think you’re reaching too low, in case they’re applying to the same place. The cloak and daggerness of it all makes one wish for a world of wide open transparency, where judgment doesn’t exist, successes are celebrated with togetherness, and misses are not seen as failures, but only as different turns in the journey.

I’ve done the end goal thought experiment with grads. The reason I want to get into this school is to get a good degree. The reason I want a good degree is to get a good job. The reason I want to get a good job is to get rich. The reason I want to get rich is… and suddenly the end goal is really a murky pool of ambiguity. Sure, there’s the prestige and acclaim of getting into a particular institution. But the euphoria of attainment is all too often temporary and fleeting. In economics, we talk about diminishing marginal returns, where your first pride filled success is rich and addictive, but each successive one becomes less luminous, less joyful, less captivating until it becomes plain and flat and you wonder why you were trying so hard in the first place. A chasing of the wind it seems.

Author Stephen Covey encourages people to build a personal mission statement, to define yourself and your values, and to begin with the end in mind. It’s a splendid idea, and it feels right and good to structure your choices and everyday decisions around a thought-out purpose, rather than lurching from one place to another only to discover the end wasn’t what you wanted in the first place.

During advisory, we had an opportunity to thank each other, and listening to Davis thank Maia, to hear Miranda thank Isa, to watch Kaitlyn thank Lily, and to see one person thank another in a chain, over and over, gave me a hope and a lightness, and gave me a somber washing away of hurts, and reminded me of my own personal life mission and direction. This is where I need to be, what I need to do, when I’ve lost my way. 

If I ever lose my way again, and I know I will, it’s reassuring and safe knowing there’s a place for me to reground, reset, and remind. Once again, sorry Cam and Miller, but, at least I know I should always have my answer key handy and ready next time I write a problem on the board.

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