Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.
Summer has come, at last. So far, it’s been a few days of sunshine and heat wave followed by four days of rain. On the bright side, the plants on our yard have flourished.
Learning a new home
A week ago, we gave back the keys to our previous apartment, and officially transported the last load of boxes to our new home. To our home. We’ve made progress on several fronts, and it’s slowly starting to feel like home.
A few days ago, I noticed there’s a lilac tree outside our bedroom window.
On our yard, there’s a patch where we apparently have some kind of a lily growing. Because it hasn’t bloomed yet, we don’t know which one.
There are several items (both in and outside cardboard boxes) that still don’t have a place.
I don’t know which buses stop at the nearest bus stop, because I’ve always walked to the metro station.
Bit by bit, we’re learning the ways of our new home. As we get more and more things put where they belong, we know more and more about our home.
So far, it’s a half-filled puzzle that we need to complete. A Scrabble game midway through, and our team still has half a bag of letters to place – aiming to get the Q on a triple word score square. 🙂
We visited a friend’s family a few nights ago. I’m one of the godparents of their daughter, 5, so we spent some quality time one on one. We played hide and seek, and then we made a fairytale drawing. I took a piece of paper and a pencil, and told her we were going to create a fairytale, and I was going to draw as we made it up. “But I can’t make up a fairytale!” Don’t worry, I said, we’re going to make it up together.
I asked her what she wanted the fairytale to be about. “Could it be about a witch?” Yes, it could. Was it a good witch or an evil one? “An evil witch who flies around on a broomstick.” And I started drawing.
For the record, I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag on any artistic standards. It didn’t matter. By picture three, I didn’t even have to ask her questions or suggest plot twists anymore – she was on such a roll I hardly had time to sketch the major plot twists. 🙂
After we finished the story (one that involved a magic potion, turning people into frogs, a burning village, a gingerbread house and a girl who first shrunk the witch and then hoovered him/her with a vacuum cleaner), we had filled both sides of a letter-sized paper with drawings. She then wanted to tell the story to both of her parents separately.
Well, first she wanted them to guess what the fairytale was about, but when the witch was mistaken for a giant mosquito and the knight in shining armor for a bunny rabbit (I mentioned my drawing is liberal, didn’t I?), she decided it was better to explain the story.
It took the five-year-old about three minutes to get over the “I’m not sure I can” hurdle. Once we got in the flow, she didn’t care if she was good at telling stories or not. She was doing it.
Grades, perceptions and voodoo dolls.
For a final tidbit, I went to see my study register online for the first time in a few weeks. I had received the credits and the final grade for the study module. I got a five out of a maximum of five! Hooray! I know I worked really hard all spring, and it’s fabulous to see that all the work really paid off. More specifically, I’m glad that I was able to process the trillion things I learned into a format where the mentors could also see I’d learned something.
I have a slightly ambivalent relationship with grades in general. On the other hand, I’ve always had a high GPA as a kid and a teenager, and considered it a kind of a badge of honor. That means I’ve taken good grades somewhat for granted – until my matriculation exam (the Finnish high school finishing exam).
I’d been a good student, especially in languages, and I thought the Finnish exam would be a piece of cake. At the time, the Finnish exam was divided into two different exams on two separate days.
In the first exam, I had a splitting migraine throughout the exam. At one point I couldn’t see what I’d written, because the words were spinning on the page. In the second exam, I had stomach flu and had spent the previous night getting repeatedly sick and thus not really getting enough sleep. Suffice to say I didn’t really perform at my usual level on either occasion.
Since then, I’ve tried to view grades not as an indicator of my knowledge, but as an indicator of what I’ve been able to communicate to the examiner or teacher. The two go hand in hand, of course, but I know that the grade doesn’t necessarily reflect my knowledge or level of learning at all. It doesn’t describe me – it describes the examiner’s perception of me.
This reminds me of a chapter in The Usual Error book (read my review). If the other person has a voodoo doll that vaguely resembles me, I don’t have to react when they stick pins in it. If they talk to me like I don’t understand something, it doesn’t erase my understanding of the topic – it’s their perception that they’re talking to.
In the same way, when I get a rave review or a fabulous grade, I do get really happy, but I don’t have to cling on to it for dear life. I don’t have to fear the day when the compliments end, and I don’t have to keep reminding everyone I meet that I was indeed called this and awarded that ten years ago.
The essence of me doesn’t fluctuate depending on whether I get compliments or criticism. All the compliments and criticism are, in fact, representations of other people’s perceptions of me. And whatever they say, I’m still the one who knows what I can do, what I’ve learned, where I’ve made mistakes and what I should do differently.
And that’s pretty cool.
Have a lovely, sunny/rainy (whichever you’re needing most right now) summer weekend, and keep catching your insightings!