I took my thoughts for a walk. Cold/cool/brisk air on my face feels good/not bad/needed. I walk
while others along the same route jog/cycle/push themselves. Few pant. Everyone in their own way is dressed for the elements. Everyone in their own way seems prepared for cold/cool/brisk air. All of us are out. I walk neither fast nor slow. This is no workout. I am walking to drop off our PCR tests then circling back, strolling through the little Saturday market, then past the side-by-side cemeteries. For a moment I think of ascending the big hill drive that divides them. That would feel like a workout. I easily decide against it. I walk and my head brims with useful and less useful thoughts. It's OK because I'm taking my thoughts for a walk. This is their chance. I don't begrudge my thoughts their moment in the sun.
I walk past the hillside vineyard which is striking in the midst of otherwise residential territory. The vineyard as breathing space, a clearing for the eyes to recalibrate. It is always a welcome break in the visual action. Today there is a small team of eight workers pruning the vines. I wonder which language they speak with each other, how much they get paid, how long it might take them to finish the whole plot. When I return on my way back they are absent, but their van remains. It's lunchtime. I wonder where they take their lunch although it is everything but my business to know.
I'm near the tail end of my loop. I notice the same venturers on bikes, on foot completing their own loop-de-loops. That's where it hits me that I am tired. Tired of achievement. Tired of driving/striving/edging myself and others forward, forward. Tired of achievement to measure my worth. Tired of achievement to identify belonging. Tired of achievement as the price of admission. Tired of achievement as the lens I use to recognize others. Tired of achievement as a false god to whom all sacrifices must be dedicated. Tired of achievement as gospel. Tired of achievement as mandate. Tired of achievement as an institutional safety blanket. Tired of achievement as a broken record. Tired of achievement as the only record.
Isn't it ironic that I have made a career working in schools? In achievement factories.
But that's the thing. Students insist that there is always more than silly achievement. They show it. They speak and sing it. They write it. They play it. They dramatize it. They outsmart/outrun/outpace it. They skip it. They perform it. They hold it hostage. They hold it back. They hold it over our heads. They override it. They fake it. They make it. They deliver and withdraw it. They illustrate it. They erase it. They toss it. They remix it. They've got it. They are over it.
They are why I stay in schools. I am studying their achievement of resisting/retiring/releasing achievement. They teach me. They make me less tired.
I make it home, allow my thoughts to run wild on the page. We are all relieved. Peace is a challenge and always only temporary. I can accept that on a walk in the cold/cool/brisk air.
One thought on “Tired of Achievement”
Have I ever told you what a tonic you are? Well, you are a lovely tonic and I love reading your thoughts!
Here’s what they sparked for me. I love that you are taking your thoughts for a walk, doing a loving family chore, enjoying your environs and thinking about what’s happening in the day job. It felt like you were living in the moment the best way you could but captured/distracted by how difficult it can be to live in the moment at work.
Achievement and measurement !
Achievement is a weasel word when combined with measurement. Achievement can be joyous when we own it as our achievement rather than one bestowed on us by measurers. Not that measurement isn’t part of the whole game but let’s put it in its place – a sometimes necessary evil.
I love your paragraph about what students do when they are living in their moments and I hope they can claim these as achievements “resisting/retiring/releasing” them.
Thank you Sherri !