Watching a high achieving child in their moment of well-earned glory, with all their striving and high expectations seeming to have payed off, is like watching a precious glass treasure teeter atop an unstable cabinet.
I watch her standing up there proudly with all of her recent achievements pinned to her chest (metaphorically speaking) and all I see is a raised bar nipping at her heels.
Once that was me and today it is my child. Success is addictive and once we have experienced it we want more, and it drives us. We think that if we are good enough, or we get it just right, or try hard enough we will be rewarded. Then, inevitably something doesn’t work out and we feel that it must be due to our lack – of effort or smarts or ability. What we do not yet know as a child is that perfection is an illusion. It can never be achieved. Life is not like that. We have strengths and weaknesses and both should be embraced.
When I was twelve years old my grandfather took me to buy a special book I needed. We went on an outing together to a particular shop to purchase my book. Once we got back to the car I carefully took it out of its paper bag and, in his quick attempt to remove the price my grandfather’s clumsy, arthritis riddled fingers swiftly ripped the price tag from the back of the book, accidentally taking part of the book cover with it.
I looked on mortified. I was so disappointed that the book I hadn’t even handled yet was already flawed. In my mind it was now of lesser value.
Many years later, when browsing through my father’s bookshelf I came across a book of the same title. Recalling the incident with my grandfather I smiled as I removed this copy from the shelf. I flicked nostalgically through its pages and as I turned it over and saw the damaged back cover I recognised it immediately as my copy…by its flaw! This small tear at the back brought such delight. I touched the tear lovingly, as though it contained some of my memory, and it did. The damaged cover is exactly what made this book mine. The flaw gave it character and individuality and left a unique imprint of my interaction with this otherwise ordinary object.
None of us gets through life’s journey without scars. Whether a wrinkle, a heartbreak or a spectacular failure these experiences give us nuances and individuality and differentiate us from the herd. My off-the-rack car is ‘personalised’ by the challenges we have faced together. My knees are scarred from childhood bike accidents. My home is far from a pristine sanctuary, but rather a true reflection of the messiness of daily living that takes place within.
Life is a blank canvas upon which we make our mark. Over the course of time it becomes tailored and shaped by our experiences.
The dents and scratches are an important part of who we are. They become the buildng blocks of our wisdom and insight and we should value them for this.
The scars and the mess are all evidence of a life of interaction, experimentation and learning. They are what make us stand out from all the others on the shelf, and make for a truly engaging read.