As a boy, I spent my early years playing. I did not seek to please anyone as I played, though my parents no doubt were pleased to see me doing what all children ought. I did not seek to play better than those I played with – what would be the point? I simply played, and was glad to do so.
Then came school and, though I did not seek to impress, I was, from time to time, rewarded. Stars for pleasing the teacher. And I saw that the number of stars others received was compared with those that were bestowed on me. I was, I realised, in competition with my peers.
School continued and the tasks set me became more complex – the rewards more contingent on my reaching a certain standard. ‘Work hard’, they said, ‘and you might do well – you might progress’. There was always a next stage, never a point beyond which one could stop and rest. And so to university – where those who strived hardest won the best jobs.
And so at last came work. And the rewards dried up, replaced now by the threat of sanctions. Instead of rewards for achieving, now there were punishments – even for those who were simply standing still. Good enough was no longer good enough. ‘Be better, Do more’, they said, ‘You must do better. You must do more’.
So harder and harder i worked until I stopped – exhausted – defeated..
‘Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.’
I remembered my years as a boy. When I just did what I wanted, did what was right for me to do.
Competing in a misguided attempt to prove our perfection makes losers of us all.
And so I became a child again – became wise again – just enjoying doing what I was meant to do.
Perhaps there are those who are glad to see me now – doing what I do. But if not, so be it.
The doing is reward enough.