Monday, November 29, 2010

grateful for: just your average c.

{from here}

I was all set today to write a post about writing, what I love about it and how it soothes me, especially after a Thanksgiving weekend that felt a little rushed and a lot different than what my 24-year-old self is accustomed to.

Then I went to class today and was awarded my first-ever C.

I say first-ever because although I’m sure I got Cs during elementary school (I could not seem to conquer fractions), I honestly can’t remember receiving a C in recent memory. It’s a landmark occasion then, one my brother said he would reward with a root beer. 

The C, in the grand scheme, does not matter much, if at all. But it is a sign, I think, of why these past few months have been such a burden. And despite the fact that I say I do not care, I do. Very much. 

I do not get Cs. Not because I am incapable of getting them; obviously I am quite capable. But I don’t get Cs because that’s not what I aim for. Call me an overachiever and a perfectionist, but it’s true.

This morning in class, we discussed excellence, about pursuing it in every avenue of our lives: relationships, spirituality, education. We’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and in the memoir, Robert Pirsig says this about excellence (or, as he terms it, Quality): 

“You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally. That’s the way all the experts do it. The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn’t separate from the rest of your existence. If you’re a sloppy thinker the six days of the week you aren’t working on your machine, what trap avoidances, what gimmicks, can make you all of a sudden sharp on the seventh? It all goes together….

The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be ‘out there’ and the person that appears to be ‘in here’ are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.”

I think I have identified my problem, the problem I’ve now had for months. 

In pursuing many things, I have become excellent in none. 

And if I’m not able to cultivate excellence, then maybe it’s time to quit. 

Not because I’m a baby and think I only deserve As in everything, but because this C didn’t disturb me, didn’t shock me. I knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time before something had to give.

Maybe it's time to quit because I’m not trying to be excellent at anything anymore. I’m just trying to scrape by. In my marriage, in my relationships, with my friends, with my creative pursuits, and in my education.

Scraping by shouldn’t be enough. I don’t want it to be enough. 

I want more excellence in my life. 

So today, as November crashes to a close, I'm grateful for Cs. For wake-up calls. For excellence.


Throughout the latter part of November, I'm dedicating my time to the things that fill my life with joy. You can find more posts on gratitude through the month of November here.


AbbieBabble said...

Firstly: when, in seventh grade, my sister got in trouble at school and received a detention, my parents took her out to ice cream.

Secondly: As always, beautiful post. Here's to more excellence.

Anthony - Motojournalism said...

I love the story/philosophy/story/philosophy structure of the book. Keeps it interesting and very readable. So what does your professor think of the whole "withholding grades" business that Pirsig talks about?

Kari said...

I like what Abbie said. My dad was aware that I was too hard on myself and always said that my report cards were "boring" so that I would know it was okay to get something other than an A. But what you say about excellence is also important. There's a balance to be struck in there, being excellent at what is truly important and being willing to let the rest go.

Velva said...

You are far too hard on yourself. A good solid "C" builds character, which can be part of the journey to excellence.


Anonymous said...

"In pursuing many things, I have become excellent in none."

what a fantastic reminder-- to return to the place where i left the things I had hoped to do well, shedding the other (less important) commitments I have picked up on the way.

Thanks for this.

Sabrina said...

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

One thing I know for sure is that this peace is real and once you get connected to it again you will wonder how you were living without it. I pray that it comes quickly and just in time for a brand new year:)
Much love,

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