By: Brad Manock
One of the secrets that I held onto the most tightly during my days of attending high school were large projects. If I had a poster that I needed to paste clipping of pictures and text onto, it would be very important that my family never know about the project. Why? Once my family would find out about a project I needed to do, it was no longer MY project. It was their project. In this article I am going to discuss some of the frustration that comes along with attempting to complete projects in secrecy or to the quality standards of my family as opposed to my own standards.
Top-Secret School Projects
One of the biggest projects of the year during middle school and high school was the science fair. These were some of the most time consuming projects I had to engage in during my entire academic career. Looking at some of the projects that other kids submitted, the quality standards were fairly low. Probably about 25% of the class would do the “plant experiment” every year. This experiment would feature several plants that were grown in different conditions and watered with different liquids. The result would be the plant grown in the sunlight with water did best and the plant in the dark watered with soda did the worst, big surprise. Even though the standards of quality were low, I would always be expected by my family to over-perform.
The setup in the living room at the house I lived in growing up had the TV in front with the computer just to the side. So if my parents were watching TV they could glance over at what I was doing very easily. This made it very difficult to keep projects concealed since I would often be asked what I was doing on the computer. If I had to use the printer for anything, that was a dead giveaway that I was working on some type of project for school. The whine of the printer starting up would instantly shatter any attempt at secrecy.
The consequences for my parents finding out a project were small as long as it occurred at the beginning of the project. If my project was seen near completion it would be a disaster. This is because, after looking at my project, they would determine that I did not put enough time and effort into the project and I would have to start over. Sometimes I would even slip up the morning before the project was due. This would be very frustrating to whichever adult found out because they would look at the project, demand I do it over, and then I say “I can’t, it is due today.”
My mom always had a saying when I would question the importance of time and effort. She would say “good, better, best never let it rest, until your good is your better, and your better is your best.” This because the go-to rhyming cliché that would invalidate anything I was saying.
Whenever I would get into a situation where I would have to re-do a project, I would attempt to leverage the situation so that the adult does most of the work. This would be the best case scenario after my family found out about a project. I would be hesitant to do anything during a project re-do because I would end up doing something that was not up to the quality standards of the adults present.
You Have To Work Hard
Something they don’t teach in school is that hard work does not equal reward directly. Indirectly, hard work and effort leads to success, but not directly. I remember I would always color projects with colored pencils and argue to the teacher when the kids that used printers to produce images would get higher grades than me. After all, I spent a lot of time and energy to color my projects when all the other kids did was push a button and paste pictures onto a poster board. Schools, and my family taught me that your rewards will always be exactly equivalent to the time and energy put into it. Up until about middle school I would expect a greater reward for completing a task if I did it in a way that took more time and energy than the other kids used to complete the same task. During middle school I finally realized the goal was to complete the project with as much efficiency as possible as opposed to purposefully doing things in the most difficult way possible. This view of efficiently using time and energy collided with my family’s opinion that anything that was easy, was also of low quality.
Now I am free of the judgment of others in terms of my academic career because I recently graduated from college. I feel I have learned more in the three months or so being out of college than I did in my entire high school and college career. Feels good to be an adult.