A couple of days ago, Mr. Cation got his second master's degree, a whole bunch of students from my second year of teaching got their bachelor's degrees, and a week ago even more students from my fifth and seventh years teaching got their high school diplomas. It's funny seeing all these graduation pictures pop up on social media, and then thinking back to some of my own graduations long ago. My high school was huge enough and I was unremarkable enough that I didn't win any of the senior standouts, but in my very tiny junior high's eighth grade class, I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed." Here's the photo evidence:
|Really bad scan of the yearbook's already tiny, blurry picture.|
The yearbook staff had us pose for the photo holding fistfuls of dollar bills to represent our future success. In retrospect, this is ironic, as teaching high school science is not exactly the path to luxury; in fact, it's pretty much the opposite. In contrast, my male counterpart for that award went on to get a Ph.D from Princeton and do his post-doc at Stanford -- certainly more fitting of the typical definition of success! Sometimes I wonder if I should have been more ambitious in my career; what if I had decided to go into research, or actually gone to medical school the way Asian kids are supposed to do? I could have gotten depressed about this, but then I had two helpful thoughts:
- There are no such things as middle school reunions, so I don't need to worry about showing up decades down the line without fistfuls of money.
- My chosen career path isn't exactly glamorous or lucrative, but I've had the privilege of working closely with many bright young minds over the years, inspiring them to pursue STEM fields (quite a few of my former students even went on to major in chemistry-related things!), or even just to use their brains more, helping them work through personal issues...and of course, encouraging them to let their geek flags fly!
That's not to say that dads who work outside the home don't do the same, but when I talk to my students and hear how absent or busy their dads are, it makes me all the more grateful that my father showed us in a very real way that relationships are more important than ambition. I took his presence in our childhoods for granted at the time, but I know now how unique his choice was in a time when stay-at-home dads weren't the new hip thing. Without his influence, I wouldn't have my love of finding out how things work, my appreciation for literature and art and music, or my confidence in being unique (although that last one took a bit longer to learn). Although my mom taught me how to use a sewing machine, my dad was the one who equipped me mentally to teach myself the art of dressmaking. He gave up a lot to pass on that DIY mentality to me.
So, on this Father's Day, I quote Laura Ingalls Wilder quoting Shakespeare in her essay on ambition: "Ambition is a good servant but a bad master. So long as we control our ambition, it is good, but if there is danger of being ruled by it, then I would say in the words of Shakespeare, 'Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition, for by that sin fell the angels.'" (These Happy Golden Years)
And hey, the eighth grade standouts story has a happy ending! Besides being voted "Most Likely to Succeed," I was also voted...
They had us pose with house-painting tools...?
I think that one worked out much better in the traditional sense of the award, as I'm pretty sure most of what goes on on this little bloggy blog could fall under the definition of art. Or at least arts and crafts. Okay, so maybe just crafts, but you know what I mean.
It's too bad they didn't have a category for "Most Likely to Become Obsessed with Cats." I would've owned that award.
|Walnut did not want to wear the graduation cap. Look at that face of dread!|
|Can you tell? He's actually sticking his tongue out at the impending cap!|
|His whole body is just seething with resentment here.|