Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book: Strings Attached

A little over a month ago, I made a deal with myself that I would get back to reading books.  As a child, I read so much, I needed glasses by the age of 10 and by the age of 12, my vision had deteriorated to the point I could only see the big 'E' on the top row of the optometrist's letter board.  Since that time, my vision has remained largely the same, improving and then alternately regressing slightly.  I wish I could say my book reading habits have remained the same, that is, devouring whole books in a single day, but sadly they have not.  Time is a frequent scapegoat for why most things are left undone, and I too, like to blame it for this decline.  However, a more accurate culprit would most likely be, intention.

So, at the end of October, I made it my intention to get back to reading books.  I decided if time was the culprit, surely I could read at least one book per month.  I made this pact on October 27th and have just finished my 3rd book, Strings Attached: One tough teacher and the gift of great expectations, by Joanne Lipman & Melanie Kupchynsky.   It was a great read and left me a feeling quite sentimental.  In fact, so sentimental I felt moved to write.  Won't you hear me out?

I spent quite a bit of time thinking of my mom and her "tough love" way of being throughout my childhood while reading this book.  I recalled the memories of bringing home B's on report cards and being happy to show her to which she responded, "A 'B'?!? My child doesn't bring home B's!!" and to then dismiss me to go study.  Or when I bought home A's and she inquired as to why the A's weren't A+'s.  There was also the time I misspelled "bias" in the 6th grade spelling bee.  When I returned home that evening, I had to write a one-page paper on "bias"and its importance in the world.  That paper was hung by the door to my bedroom, on full view so that I would never forget "bias is a thing that can make or break you".  And although we had a dishwasher at home, my mom never let me use it, claiming "doing things the hard way built character." She would often use that philosophy as a metaphor for dealing with difficulties in life.

Growing up, I thought my mom was tough and I often felt nothing I did would ever please her.  But, I worked hard in my attempts.  I graduated high school with a 4.6 GPA (AP and honors classes were weighted higher) and my first college GPA was a 4.0.  With enough lecturing from my mom, I eventually began to believe I could do anything I put my mind to.  I remember once arguing with the quarterback of the high school football team that if I worked hard enough, I could run 40 yards in under 5 seconds.  

My mom's tough love continues to inspire me to work hard.  I understand that the big things in life won't be easy.  Difficulty never deters me.  I dig in deep and ultimately, I know I am built for the challenges.  Sometimes people tell me it's almost as if I believe I can will things to turn out the way I want.  But it's not that I believe I can will the world to my whims, but moreso I believe, if I work hard and persist, my efforts will give way to my desires.

Strings Attached is a book about how great expectations can lead to success but is also a book about friendship.  I thought a lot about my friends while reading this book, those near and far; the friends I talk to daily and those who have dedicated their lives to teaching and those I don't talk to as often but when we do talk, we pick up right where we left off as if not a second has passed since we last spoke.  I thought a lot about how life throws us curves and how things don't often turn out as we had hoped.  I thought about how life can be "messy" and yet,  beautiful.  I thought all these things as I poured over the words of this book and I felt grateful my life.  Grateful for tough love and great expectations.  Grateful for family.  Grateful for friends.  Grateful for today and grateful for this very moment.

As my life continues, I know I will from time to time think back on this story and the people in it.  And I will remember how one person living a life with passion can positively impact the world. I've always believed that the best works of art make you feel something; joy, anger, love, sadness, nostalgia.  Strings Attached stirred up all of these emotions and then some.

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