I love hanging out with Maya because you’re almost guaranteed to spend the greater portion of that time either (a) listening to and belting the lyrics out loud to your favorite songs, (b) watching Gossip Girl on marathon mode, (c) laughing so hard that you, literally, pee your pants, (d) arguing over who throws a tighter spiral in the front yard, or (e) having some mind-blowing epic conversation about anything from the history of apartheid in Africa to how our family has evolved over the years since her dad and I were married back in the day.
Yesterday, while she was helping me finish up the “spring cleaning” project I had started in Jonah’s room, we hopped in the car and headed to CFNE to bring 90% of the contents of Jonah’s childhood gatherings to the dumpster to finish off the job.
“I can’t wait to get my grades tomorrow. I’m so nervous, though. I think I did ok, but I have no idea where I’m going to end up with my math grade.”
“Look, whatever they are, they’re already done, right? Any energy you put towards worrying about what your grades will be tomorrow isn’t going to change what they are. So, don’t even worry about it. Don’t even think about it, because now it’s out of your control. How do you feel about your effort this quarter?”
“Mom, I don’t think I’ve ever actually worked this hard in my whole life. And, I feel really good about that. I just hope that my grades show that. And, I feel like I could either get an A in math, or a D…and, it could, literally, go either way.”
“Maya, then it doesn’t matter at all what your grades are. Like, not at all.”
“Because you did everything you could. You worked as hard as you believe you could have. And, you are proud of that. That’s, honest to God, all that matters.”
Do you see that everything we preach about training and competing applies to everything in life: whether you’re happy with your grades, whether you’re happy about a work project, whether you’re happy about your relationship with your spouse or significant other, whether you’re happy about your relationship with your kids or friends?
It’s all the same.
The happiness isn’t hiding in the result.
It’s not the special gift you get at the end of the process.
The happiness is embedded within the process.
The special gift is that happiness that runs through you as you invest everything you have into something, when you make all of the countless decisions you need to make for the right reasons, and every time you walk away from whatever that “project” happens to be and find yourself feeling consistently proud of what you put into it.
You can’t rely on finding happiness at the end of the rainbow because, if that’s what you’re doing it for, your rainbow never ends.
You’ll just never truly find it.
Maya ended up getting all A’s and 1 B, and 2 effort stars (which are rarely given out, but reward students that go above and beyond)…which we were, naturally, excited about. This quarter was, by far, her best quarter of grades in her whole life. But, in all honesty, I was no prouder of Maya after finding out her grades than I was when she told me how hard she worked for them.
Here’s the other side of this story: I think what I know from seeing this go down in so many other situations is that even if Maya had not gotten the grades she had hoped for, she would have learned what the grind is really like, what that sense of pure satisfaction with your work feels like, and the confidence that you learn from conquering that sort of overwhelming feat.
You can’t learn lessons like that in a text book.
You learn it by committing to the process.