Praise hampered me

I guess it started with [my brother] N__ saying my blog seemed smart but hard to read—like I was explaining the idea before stating it, or something like that, he said. I agreed. … N__ said—his basic point throughout discussion, as I understood it, was that I am smart (he used that word several times, even said he was complimenting me ) but I don’t live up to my potential. Basically, that I should be using my brains to make money. He said he admires Achievers. And M said at first that I’m an overachiever—and we debated what that means.

But my point was—and let’s blurt it out—hearing I’m smart doesn’t help me. One, it feels ostracizing (and when I said to N__ that he’s as smart as I am, he seemed genuinely to have not considered that before ), and I said when I see students who are smart, are great in philosophy discussions but they don’t do their work, I think of N__.

I’d sorta been aware of that thought before but maybe last night was first time I realized the extent of it—that I don’t know why those kids, why N__, both, don’t just suck it up and do the B.S. work because that opens more doors. I understood N__ last night and me as mirror opposites—similar, but reversed—that I sought praise, adult approval, that I never questioned the bullsh!t ’til much later in my life. It’s one of these whole-life (or large-part-of-life) narratives that in high school and college and beyond, I sought approval. Yet, praise hampered me (at Daily Illini, at R.T.H.S.) because it started to make me want to get more—a praise-aholic, a praise addict, not in a full-on addiction, but in the sense that I can fall under its spell. Even this fall, once I started blog and got a few readers, I started thinking about (stressing over) doing writing to please others.

N__ saw the b.s. of school but he couldn’t—well, he didn’t force himself to do the work. Yes, high school is b.s., I said, but it always will be—I’m in loco parentis, can’t let kids potty without asking me, as I at first thought I could do. And kids are hormonal, inexperienced sorts. And kids wouldn’t even appreciate adult skill and talent. They wouldn’t appreciate having a Nobel Prize-winning teacher. Every year you gotta prove yourself over to the new youngsters—which is, in a way, refreshing—they don’t care for titles much or accomplishment.

[From journal of Thurs., 24 Nov. 2011, Journal 149, pages 23-25]

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