Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maddie's Return

The trip to Portland was a very good one. As many of you know--Maddie may even have told you--she is unable to continue with Culinary School.

I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't a bit disappointing, but neither would I be simply rationalizing when I say, now, that it certainly isn't the end of the world. That much is to be expected, I guess, of a father who has recently experienced the meaning of failure in an absolute and very real sense, but to my way of thinking, the experiences are related but not congruent, and what Maddie has done cannot fairly be described as a true 'failure' because, in the end, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive even if it did not yet culminate in a diploma.

I recently wrote an essay about success and failure--I suppose in anticipation of this moment--in which I claim that those two terms are at best only marginally applicable to genuine human endeavors because they are relative and, at worst, simply relatively to each other. I believe that, as a self-referential system, the success-failure dynamic ironically represents the true meaning of the term 'failure' precisely in its inability to accurately describe human achievement. The metric that these two poles claim to represent is a false one, and of use primarily in monetizing social situations rather than describing with nuance the organic nature of the human experience. Said simply: we grow.

So, that's a long way of saying that while it sounds like rationalization--because, alas, it is, I know--there is still little about Maddie's experience that I would readily qualify as a failure. Not having the ability to complete all the work, which, while proof that she is not ready yet, is not evidence that she cannot complete the course in the future, should she decide that it is still what she wants to do.

We have to admit, however, that of this moment we don't know, really, what she wants to do. That is still perfectly ordinary for the majority of us who do not plan on becoming concert violinist or particle physicists. It's why we go to school. In a liberal arts college, a State teaching school or an engineering college, the year of discovery is often a lot longer than that. I, personally, was on the ten-year plan for my B.A. Of course, the degree has little to do with what I do today, but in the crucible of those first few years, I sifted through many options; choices that still affect me, mostly in a positive way, today.

So, although Maddie still maintains that she would like to be a baker, there are now some practical things she can and will do when she gets home to pursue that goal. Getting a job in a bakery would be a start, and likely even the little bit of training she's gained from school will be an asset sufficient to get her hired at least.

Maintaining her focus and improving her skills is another front, also one on which we have made some progress. She went to see a therapist last week and was prescribed some medication to help her focus and be more alert and open to improvement during the workday. Of course we are skeptical, given our experience, of offering drugs as a solution, even a short term one, but we are also compelled to help her if we can, and I do think the treatment has some promise.

Of course coming 'home' is a double-edged sword; it'll be good for her, but she can't live with us for too long because, in essence she's already made the key 'break' that the Portland adventure has defined. In short, she's ready to be independent, just with a little proximity to her long time caregivers.

1 comment:

Trevor W Goodchild said...

Good perspective on this...sometimes things we may think of as adverse serve a higher purpose and lead to places we wouldn't have gone otherwise..not everything is polarized...with the incompletion of one idea, on occasion an even greater dream will be realized