Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Race To Nowhere: I'm going to get there first!!!

I just saw the movie Race to Nowhere. It bills itself as the "dark side of America's acheivement culture." I, too, believe that we are pushing ourselves far beyond our capabilities and are losing focus on how we really contribute to our society, family and ourselves.

This film takes several case studies and looks at why our kids are so stressed out in a world of so many expectations. If you are not at the top there is only one place to go and that's down.

These are the hoops we've jumped through for private high school admissions this fall:

My son:
visited 8 schools
attended 6 open houses
took the SSAT 2 times
took the ISEE 1 time
had 7 interviews
wrote 4 admissions essays
filled out four applications with essay questions
asked for 16 letters of recommendation
kept his grades sparkling perfect

All of this was on top of our regualar life that is filled with extra curricular activities, family and travel. Nary an eye did he bat. This was normal for all of the students in his class. No one forced him, all of the above was voluntary.

However, when this is considered normal, I have to wonder just what we expect from 13 and 14 years olds. When do the seams start to stretch and rip a little? How do you know when you actually reach any finish lines, if that is indeed your purpose.

Within 3 minutes of watching the film, I felt very grateful for the school that our children already attend. Focus is on the child and perserving childhood. It is a culture of acceptance and tolerance and appreciation for each individual. Of course, this is very expensive.

When I look at the parents in our community, myself sometimes included, it seems like a magical life they lead. They have fancy houses, cars and money to burn. They jet around the world and buy the latest fashions. They sit in the front row at concerts, sports events and theater. Only the best wine, champagne and organic produce graces their tables and tummies.

They all must be really happy, right? Except, I think that I really know very few truly happy people. If his is what we consider as having it all, and if that's all of it, where is the rest of it? More, you ask, what more could one want? That's why it's called having it all.

Spoiled by life, spoiled by circumstance, everybody wants more. There is never enough. It is never done quite right, cooked quite right, fits quite right or looks quite right. There are not a lot of smiling faces. These are grown ups and they are still racing this same race to nowhere.

I, personally, don't want to race to nowhere, but you get caught up in the crowd at the starting line. I'd like to take some time and enjoy where I'm at with the people I'm with. As I learned at the British Museum last month, you just die anyway and you truly can't take it with you. Why would you want to race headlong toward that?

My advice for adults today: Eat dessert. Put cream in your coffee. Tear off a piece of that crusty bread and enjoy it! Turn off you cell phone, enjoy the conversation. Sleep in, say no sometimes, watch tv in bed and eat chips WITH dip. Laugh. Nap. Go shopping. Get a massage.

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