I had a dream that I was back in grade seven this week. I don’t give much thought to my years in junior high – they were awkward, mostly, but otherwise a relatively inconsequential period of time in my life. In fact, I have no idea why I had it on my mind this week. But looking back, I think there are some life lessons I could probably learn from my twelve-year-old self.
When I was twelve, I was relaxed. It was the first year at school where academic achievement was fully based on test results, but that didn’t phase me – even though I was in an advanced placement program that came with forty pounds of textbooks. Tests happened weekly, sometimes daily. My marks varied wildly depending on the subject, swinging from Cs to A+s in the same class within weeks. A lot of my classmates really, really cared. I remember watching how caring impacted them; how they were in constant competition, jockeying for supremacy and, more importantly, for external validation. None of them, it seemed to me, actually got any personal satisfaction from doing well. So I took things slow and did what I wanted – finished homework best as I could manage, studied when I felt like it, and did what made me happy.
That attitude changed, as time went on. I focussed more on school – on results – with every year that passed. There was temporary satisfaction in a good report card and the rest of the time, I was so concentrated on working towards it that I hardly noticed whether or not I was happy. This focus on results continue into university. I hated being there, but I did well, and I’m still not sure if I just chose the wrong area of study or if my pursuit of a high GPA spoiled my experience. In my work life, I’m much the same. At this point, it is a habit more than anything, always wanting cross things off a to-do list, to feel that I can prove I’ve done something when my day ends.
But it seeps into everyday life, too. I equate the act of not doing anything, even for just a few minutes, with boredom. When we travel, I want to see everything, no matter how much time I have in the city I’m visiting. During our visit to Prague, where we got these shots, we woke up basically with the sun and ran from attraction to attraction, because I didn’t want to miss a thing. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy myself – I love the way we manage to do so much on our trips. But I realise that all the running means that I miss things. When I do finally slow down, like I did on the morning we took these shots, our last in the city, is when I can finally start to take it all in and make new discoveries.
I would never do grade seven over again. But I am trying to take some advice from my twelve-year-old self and just slow down. I suspect, however, it might be easier said than done…