When my son was in the first grade he was in a math competition in his class. Easy rules. Whoever answered the math questions correctly first was the winner. The winner of this fierce competition, that lasted twenty minutes (maybe), would get a package of flexipencils. Twelve of them. I mean, FLEXI-PENCILS! TWELVE OF THEM!
When I picked him up from school that day he got into the car with a solemn look on his face. I knew that he did not win. I felt…sad? because he felt sad. I knew that he knew the answers to the math questions. All of them. I was also aware of what he made the prize mean. Him receiving flexi-pencils from the teacher that day in front of his peers would have meant (to him, and to his classmates) that he was smart, wonderful, special, a great person. The list goes on. Uraeus, my wonderful son, is already awesome, already incredible, already all of it. Flexi-pencils, by the way, are just pencils that bend. And not all the way mind you. But more than regular pencils do. A package of twelve I think are $1.29. The ones with SpongeBob’s face on them are sixty cents more, I think. Anyway, flexi-pencils do not define Uraeus. But of course I understood the desire to win.
I began to think about how often we chase things and people and prizes because someone gave them a special meaning and we dedicated our lives to achieving them without stopping to recognize that these prizes, all of them are flexi-pencils. Understand here that I am not saying that flexi-pencils are meaningless. Instead I am saying that they mean exactly what we make them mean. The prizes in our lives mean what we make them mean. The hardships we go through mean what we make them mean. We shape them with our words, our dreams. What we believe.