Last Thursday was a remarkable day. My 18-year-old daughter, who is just about to graduate from her alternative high school, had to present her academic portfolio as a requirement of graduation. Her charge was to demonstrate mastery in several different learning realms to a roundtable of teachers, parents, and members of the community. Not an easy task.
She prepared for weeks. She pulled together all of the work she felt best represented her senior year of learning. She also had to write a narrative about each learning realm as well as reflect in general about her high school experience. It was an amazing process to witness. She worked her tail off reviewing, synthesizing and preparing to present the past year of her growth-filled life.
The day finally came. In a large, naturally lit classroom around a broad table, eight people carefully reviewed the numerous folders of my daughter’s portfolio. The air was charged with the feeling of a young woman’s rite of passage. At one point, my daughter was asked to leave the room while we discussed her personal and academic achievements of her career. According to procedure, the roundtable would determine if she passed and would graduate.
I must say, as the proud mother, she came through with flying colors. The work she presented more than met the requirements. The team was extremely impressed and awed by the well roundedness and depth of my daughter and her work. She was lavished with praise and validation. I watched her soak in all the attention like a sponge, almost to the point of discomfort.
At our celebratory dinner afterwards, our family was debriefing and reflecting on what we had all just experienced. At one point, in the joyfully, animated conversation, my daughter began to wonder if a fellow classmate, also a successful student, would experience the same degree of affirmation that she was feeling.
When we asked her to elaborate, she stated simply that what was so remarkable about her experience at the roundtable was that we were all praising her for WHO she was as a person, not just for what she’s accomplished. She wondered out loud if her friend’s parents would put the emphasis on her friend’s achievements rather than for who she was as a person.
In that moment, my husband and I looked at each other and smiled. We realized as parents, we had done our job. She was able to distinguish this very profound awareness that, in my opinion, escapes most people. Who you ARE in life is equally as important as what you DO.
Who are YOU? Do you know? Do you value who you are as a person in the world as much as you value your accomplishments?
Admittedly, we live in a culture where we are mostly defined by what we do rather than who we are. Both are important but I would presume that most of us are out of balance in the doing department.
Here’s an invitation to ponder the following questions and spend some time remembering or cultivating who you ARE.
1. When you think of yourself, what do you primarily identify with – your sense of being or what you do?
2 . Can you identify your values? What’s most important to you beyond the “shoulds” of life? Truth, integrity, beauty, love?
3. If you were to die tomorrow, what would people remember about you? How much money you made or what you stood for?
4. How well do you love yourself? What do you need to take care of so when you look at yourself in the mirror you feel good about you (and I don’t just mean physically)?
I give thanks to my wise daughter for reminding me of this very powerful life distinction. What a gift it is to be a part of raising a human being who finds value and meaning in herself.
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!