A while ago, I read a book that suggested one of the most important things children can develop at school is conscientiousness. My school reports invariably described me as conscientious. I was determined to do well, even at things I wasn’t interested in and didn’t enjoy.
Last week, I saw this on Humans of New York:
“I was always made to feel like I’d be successful because I always did my homework. I wish I’d spent more time putting energy into things that came from myself.”
I remember at school being told I couldn’t do certain subjects that I wanted to do because I was too clever and should do something more academic. A while ago, a friend told me his daughter’s school wouldn’t let her take a subject she loved because she wasn’t good enough at it to get the marks they wanted from her.
Recently, I read a this quote by Danielle LaPorte: “Competency is for suckers. Be careful what you’re good at – you could end up doing it for years.”
Fifteen years for me. Fifteen years doing work I was very good at, but didn’t enjoy. And then I gave it all up. I gave it up because I had a baby and read a book that featured an allegory that began ‘Imagine you woke up one day in a land populated almost entirely by giants…’ and went on: ‘Do as you are told. It’s easier to get along if you go along. Don’t cry. Don’t fight. Study hard. Get a job. Do as you are told. Get married. Have children to support you in your old age. Do as you are told.’
Which is exactly what I’d always done. I’d been the good girl. I’d been conscientious. I’d studied and worked hard thinking that eventually I would be rewarded, but instead I’d just been taken for granted. And I was miserable. (And not even well-paid!) I got to the end of the story: ‘And then one day you wake up, and there is a tiny little creature staring up at you. She has awakened in a land of giants. And because you love her, you begin to teach her everything you’ve learned about how to survive in this land of giants. And so, the cycle continues …’
I cried when I read that. I had my own tiny little creature and I didn’t want him to grow up with a mother who was disappointed in her life and too afraid to follow her dreams. And so I started taking my writing more seriously and within a few months I quit my job. And now I absolutely do spend my time on things I enjoy and that come from me.
It’s not about competency. It’s not about conscientiousness. It’s about creativity. I don’t want my boys to have to spend years unlearning conscientiousness and learning how to trust themselves. This is why I home ed.