99: A for Attitude

99: A for Attitude

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

A for Attitude

Four things for success: work and pray, think and believe.

~Norman Vincent Peale

English was always my favorite subject. I “got” it, unlike math. In my freshman year of high school, I could write a killer composition and diagram a sentence with surgical precision. In my sophomore year, my teacher allowed me to give spelling tests to the class. I have wonderful memories of my junior year. Mrs. Alexander appointed me to sit at her desk and present the lesson when she had to leave the room. My senior English class was distressing, as it was very small and we had a teacher right out of college who stated that she expected college-level work. Every student received a C or D grade the first quarter. She wanted us to work hard for our grade, and we did. But English was still my subject.

I graduated high school, married early, had children and raised a family. I composed long letters and beautiful poetry. I wrote complaint letters to corporations that got results. I helped my kids with their compositions and English homework and I did my former husband’s college-level English assignments. After all, English had always been my best subject. I was an A student, I told my family. Why, my teacher allowed me to take over her class when I was in high school!

Fifteen years later, I went to college, and because I had been an A student, I remained an A student. I lived up to my own expectations.

Recently, decades later, I was rummaging through old papers when I discovered my high school report cards. Holding that bundle of report cards brought back the smell of waxed hallways, chalk dust and Miss R’s flowery perfume. I remembered sitting in my advisor’s office explaining that I had always excelled at English, complaining that I did not deserve a D from that inexperienced teacher my senior year. The counselor empathized but was unable to change a grade.

Flipping through my old report cards revealed something else too. I wanted to shred them or at least hide them. I was not an A student in high school English! Somehow, I had convinced myself of this, when the grades clearly reflected an average student with an occasional A or B, but mostly C’s.

Had I lived up to those grades and defined myself based on those letters, I would have never confidently pursued my successful freelance writing career. I would have ridiculed myself: “Who do you think you are calling yourself a writer? Actually submitting to publications?” Had I believed in my early grades instead of myself, I would have allowed my fear of failure to defeat my enthusiasm and paralyze my creativity. Instead, I viewed my younger self as an A English student. Except for that one undeserved D.

~Linda O’Connell

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