For someone like me who has high standards, doing something well once, like writing a really good essay, is almost a bad thing because I can never lower the bar for myself again. It’s not that it needs to be the best paper either, it’s just that it has to be my best.
It’s not easy to always have such high standards, especially when you’re at a place in your life where everything and everyone around you might not fit those standards. Obviously it isn’t especially healthy too, when you set your standards so high that if it isn’t great, it’s just not worth it. That’s the trouble with trying to do something I find meaning in because I have that constant pressure of performing poorly. But I still think that we should have high expectations and high standards.
It’s hard to pinpoint where or how anyone picks up their opinions, ideas, and above all standards. Logically, my brain goes to my upbringing. I had a lovely childhood. It all really wasn’t that bad and it was all just adventures with lots of toys and love. I suppose the thing that really woke me up and made me have such high standards was after the most traumatic experience (I’ve had so far that is) when in the same year, my family had our house burn down and my dog run over, respectively.
My brother and sister say that before all that I used to be so optimistic, energetic, and full of that innocent life. I know that right after the house fire it was like I was finally in reality. The second my brother shouted out that “our house burnt down,” it was such a shock to the system. Because anything sudden and unexpected isn’t something you can have any foresight in. But that was what was so real about it. For example, people who have money (because they’re always worrying about not having it) who lose their luggage at an airport, or who get lost traveling, aren’t in danger and never are. A life of trips with schedules and work and its wages isn’t real life. All of that mess of timeshares, car insurance, dentist appointments, and what you’re going to wear today is the camouflage of life.
It’s those waking moments, where all of a sudden you know for sure you’re alive and really awake in the world. Those are the moments that will change you. And it must have been the culmination of all of those waking moments of having my house burn down and my dog die that lead me to adapt and to change into somebody who is more like the person I am today.
What those waking moments did for me at the same time, was give me the expectation that all of life would be such a roller coaster. I liked living, I still do, and I still foolishly go to places expecting the world to end or riot erupting or meeting some really great random guy who asks me if I want to go to Costa Rica with him, which obviously my reply would be “yes!”
If being stuck with the expectation of having a waking moment every day wasn’t enough, having the house fire led me to have high standards. Ma was finally able to build her own dream house, and furnish it with actually nice appliances! For once my family was able to afford a stupid stainless steel, mammoth-sized fridge, with the matching dishwasher and cooktop stove to go with it! We were even able to get a PS3! The idea finally stuck with me: “Why should you ever go for third best?” Why buy a crappy house that needs a ton of work, when you could just design a better one? Why ever put your effort into some piece of crap tool or cheap clothing? Good quality does mean something.
The standards that a person has for the objects and the people in their life both reflect and impact that same individual. People shouldn’t surround themselves with people with whom they barely share anything in common just because they want to be in the wolf pack. If everyone had high standards for not just the things around them but particularly themselves, everyone would be so much better off.
Obviously, having high standards and big expectations wouldn’t solve the world’s problems, and yes, a lot of people are going to have a lot of big let downs in their life, but people could be strengthened by the challenges. Of the various and ever worsening problems of this world, the one that people can help change right now is that of having high standards and big expectations. I’m not saying that you should expect all people to act according to one certain way that you think is most appropriate. I’m not saying you should set a standard that everyone should be this tall or be this smart, but I am saying you shouldn’t expect second best from your society, from your media, and on any professional capacity. I’m talking about high standards for yourself, for everyone, and thereby we'd have everyone would try their best.
Duncan W. Bradshaw is a senior at Houlton High School.