Friday, June 03, 2011

On Milestones

my son as Blind Capt. Cat in Under Milkwood

In the years I have kept this blog, I rarely drag my family into the spotlight because of my preference to keep that part of my life more private. Today's thoughts are about my oldest son, because I think he's a pretty amazing kid, because he's graduating from High School in a few days, and because what I have seen in him these past few weeks is emblematic of how we can't see our own strengths and gifts very clearly.

Recently, we were invited to attend a celebration for the students at his HS who competed a Senior Project. In lieu of their final quarter of classroom work, these students chose to do an independent study on a topic of their interest and passion, and to present/defend that work in a closed door panel of teachers and advisers. Pretty big stuff for a group of 17 year olds.

Oh, but what 17 year olds! These young people are passionate, motivated, eager, and hard working. Their projects ranged from the artistic, to the scientific, to the political and social. 35 students, out of a class of over 500 elected to pursue a senior project, my son among them.

During the reception, several of his judges came to tell me how impressed they were with his presentation. That his dedication, knowledge and enthusiasm shined through to inspire them all. One of them even said it felt like they were witnessing a TED talk.

That's high praise, indeed.

And last night, we attended the senior awards night for the HS theatre program. This isn't your typical HS theatre group. This is something incredible, something many colleges would give their eye teeth to have its like. Upwards of 14 productions are staged each year, primarily student directed and student run, including a playwright's festival, showcasing the work of 10 student playwrights. (My son, among them.)

The program director said that my son was unique in the way he gave his all, not only to his own work, but to the work of others, even in giving detailed notes and feedback in peer audition workshops to help his fellow students (who were in competition with him for coveted roles) be better. That his generosity of spirit was evident in all that he did.

And, yes, I am extremely proud of him.

But that is not the only point of this post. What really struck me is how he looks around at his fellow senior scholars and actors and sees their strengths and talents, not his own.

It's as if he has a blind spot that only allows him to see out and never in. As if he's constantly certain that he got the invitation by mistake, or that the bouncer is coming for him, or that they named him by accident.

I look at the group of students surrounding him and think this is his tribe. I worry that he doesn't feel as if he belongs.

And I think many of us have that impostor sense.

Likely he is unaware of the terrible irony: that each and every one of the people around him, the people he lauds and looks up too, all feel that same terrible insecurity to some extent.

We are all of us outsiders.

We are all of us doing the best we can, moment by moment.

And it is those moments we need to stop and celebrate.

Congratulations to my eldest son; someone I am incredibly proud of, not only for what he has accomplished, but most importantly, for who he is.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Sorry, 'thinkgeek' but while I appreciate you stopping by to read, I suspect, given the link to a 'buy my stuff' site, the fact that you have just joined blogger, and the fact that your post was grammatically incorrect, that you are in fact, a bot.

  3. Not a bot ;-)

    Sometimes, I think, it takes awhile to find your tribe. And sometimes we have more than one. You guys are my writing tribe, but I still have my college tribe. And my Hall of Science tribe, even though we only get together every ten years or so :D

  4. Hiya Sue. Nope--you're no bot. :)

    Thanks--that's what I've been trying to tell him, but I think it's hard to hear your parental unit when you're 17.