Above & Beyond

I will admit, I have spent a lot of time in my life feeling guilty that I could have done more.  Could have studied harder and gotten a better grade.  Could have practiced more and made first chair in an honor band.  Could have worked harder and not owe as much in student loans.

Could have worked harder and seen more progress from my students by the end of the year.

I’m afraid all that is true.  However, I have also spent a lot of time and effort in my life studying, practicing musical instruments, working part-time jobs in college, and working at my teaching job.  I am not the girl who will argue for three more points after the test is graded, but I am the girl who truly does want to learn about the topic.  I am not the girl who will throw a fit if I don’t place as well in an audition as I hoped, but I was the girl who practiced my clarinet outside under a tree when my dad worked night shift and I couldn’t practice in the house because he was sleeping.  I may have had student loans, but I also spent a major portion of my Christmas, spring, and summer breaks working my tail off.

My default mode is “above and beyond.”  When I am not behaving in a way consistent with that phrase, it’s probably because it doesn’t feel acceptable to be the overacheiver.  As a teenager, I would have said, “It’s not cool to actually want to learn in school, or to want to be good at playing an instrument.”  As an adult, I would say, “People will think I’m a suck-up.”  🙂  How often I have wished to just be “regular,” to “fit in,” to not care so much.  To just blend in, rather than being the girl who could read at 4, play piano at 5-ish, take algebra in 8th grade, make all the honor bands in high school, take honors and AP classes…  To me, it doesn’t sound like a list of accomplishments.  It sounds like a list of reasons why no one should want to be friends with me!  And as you can see, this has been what my entire life has been like.  But whatever I’m doing or saying, I am an overacheiver at heart.

Dang it, anyway.


I read an article at ZenHabits recently that said if you are not doing a job you are passionate about, you are probably doing just enough not to get fired.  Whether I am passionate or not about whatever job, I have never in my life done just enough not to get fired.

Until the past two months. 

It wasn’t for the reason that I didn’t want to look “uncool.”  I’ve found in teaching (or maybe just in adulthood in general) that there are always people who will approve and always people who will criticize, no matter what action you choose.  And when I remember that, it’s pretty easy to do what I feel is right and not be concerned about looking uncool.

And it’s not because I’m not passionate about my job, because, let’s face it, I am ruled by my emotions, which means I am passionate about everything.  Dang it, anyway.  🙂

The reason that I was doing just enough not to get fired is complex, but it boils down to this:  I allowed myself to be controlled by another person.  I allowed it to be “her way or the highway,” instead of asserting my competence.  This led to feeling like, if my plans and actions don’t make any difference, why bother doing a good job?  In combination with the overwhelming task of learning about first grade, it led to doing the least amount of work possible.

Of course I haven’t been having any fun!  Apathy is not my idea of fun. 

My coworker Amy keeps encouraging me: “Just keep swimming!”  That’s an excellent mantra when it’s all I can do just to get through the day.  But it’s also an excellent mantra when I want to do a good job with a huge, overwhelming task.  Which makes sense, because Amy is definitely a fellow overacheiver!  🙂  It also is a great mantra for people who usually can’t see the big picture, ahem, me.  So “just keep swimming,” in combination with “above and beyond,” is a powerful thought.

That Dori really knew what she was talking about.  (You know, Finding Nemo…are quotes from that movie part of common pop culture yet?)


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Oct 07, 2009 @ 00:04:33

    You have ALWAYS done the best you could with the tools/information you have. I’m sure you will work this out too.

    Love you.


  2. Betty
    Oct 07, 2009 @ 21:22:14

    but don’t forget to come up for a breath of air now and then:)


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