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He Was Number One (or, Why Not Everyone Gets A’s, According to Alfie Kohn)

He Was Number One (or, Why Not Everyone Gets A’s, According to Alfie Kohn)

Imagine a high school graduation. Family and friends proudly jostle for a view of their students turning tassels on stage. Imagine the students’ camaraderie, the collective sigh of relief: summer spans ahead, former identities fade. Outcasts, athletes, nerds all face the world, now wide with opportunity. Imagine, also, the salutatorian standing and speaking about her […]

Parenting Is Impossible

A little snippet from Nick Lannon’s incisive new book, Life Is Impossible: And That’s Good News:

I think I first became aware of the impossible in my life—at least aware enough that it kicked off a sort of mini existential crisis—when my wife and I were approaching the birth of our first child. I realized, as the date came closer and closer, that I was becoming more and more nervous and agitated. I’d never been a father before, and I wasn’t sure I could be a good one. In fact, I wasn’t sure what to do at all! The choices seemed endless: cloth diapers or disposable? Jarred food or blend-your-own? Breast milk or formula? Spanking or not? Harvard or Yale?

In all seriousness, though, the decision tree that spread out before me was tremendous—never-ending, actually—and it was stressing me out. It wasn’t until later that I realized what was actually going on. It turned out that I was subconsciously convinced—in a way that I never would have admitted consciously—that if I made all the right choices along that infinite parenting decision tree, that my child would grow up to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the next Oprah Winfrey. You’ll say, of course, that such a thought is ridiculous…and of course you’re right. But we all think this way, all the time. Most of the stress in our lives comes from the fact that we’ve convinced ourselves—often only subconsciously—that the sum of our decision-making will determine how well things turn out for us. Who wouldn’t feel stressed? In that scheme, your happy future depends on every minute-by-minute choice that you make!

What finally gave me some peace, and the ability to approach the birth of our daughter with some mental stability, was the realization that making all the right decisions along the parenting decision tree was impossible. Not difficult, impossible. It wasn’t something that I could buckle down on, or something I could solve with parenting books or daddy blogs…there was no way to make my way through unscathed. No, I had to acknowledge from the very beginning that failure was my sure destination. “Success,” as I had subconsciously defined it, was impossible. Ironically and counterintuitively, it was in admitting failure that I found peace.

The Writing on the Bag (Paper, Plastic, or Shame?)

The Writing on the Bag (Paper, Plastic, or Shame?)

This one comes to us from Blake Nail. The box of Cookie Crisp taunts you as you reach for the Grape Nuts and sigh. You travel over to aisle 9 where the peanut butter is and realize you should just grab some jelly while you’re at it. Make a stop in aisle 14 for the […]

Let Us (Not) Run the Race

Let Us (Not) Run the Race

This one was written by Grace Leuenberger. Last month I joined more than 20,000 people on the starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon. With about eight minutes before the start of the race, I pushed my way through the masses to the front of Corral A to join the group that would […]

If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I'll Be Happy

If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I'll Be Happy

The latest ‘gimme’ from the world of social science has, er, arrived. I’m referring to the Arrival Fallacy, “the illusion that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.” Earlier this week The NY Times devoted a whole column to this familiar dynamic, A.C. Shilton’s […]

Captain Marvel-less

Captain Marvel-less

Recently I had a dream that I could fly. This isn’t an unusual dream, though not as common as the one where I find I haven’t completed my dental school requirements — naked — and am racing against the clock to save my career (which I am not currently practicing, btw). It’s also mentioned around […]

The Scene-Police Punker in All of Us

The Scene-Police Punker in All of Us

Every couple of years I get bitten by the nostalgia bug and revisit musical obsessions from my teens and twenties. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s just what happens to you post-40, right? Maybe it’s just me. Of late, I’ve found myself climbing into endless YouTube wormholes. Before I know it, it’s 11 PM. There are […]

The Illusion of Prestige and the College Admissions Scandal

The Illusion of Prestige and the College Admissions Scandal

I spent every day after school when I was in fourth through sixth grade doing my homework in a conference room that was covered floor to ceiling in college brochures and posters. When I finished my homework, I would look over the various shiny brochures and marvel at all the options available. If you had […]

The Flabbiness of Grace; or, How I Found the Gospel at a Pure Barre Class

The Flabbiness of Grace; or, How I Found the Gospel at a Pure Barre Class

This contribution really raises the barre. By Kate Campbell: On a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon I ventured out of the warmth and safety of my home and headed out with two friends to a new destination. Upon arrival, we were greeted by name-tagged women with perfectly made-up hair and faces, who swiftly presented us with […]

Moonlighters Anonymous

Moonlighters Anonymous

Moonlighting—also known as working a second job, having a “side hustle”—is a pretty standard theme these days. Thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, everyone’s got a home renovation project, a knack for macramé, and a small business opportunity. But in truth it’s been around forever. Loads of famous people “made it” by moonlighting. The American poet […]

When We Are Distracted, God Is Mindful

When We Are Distracted, God Is Mindful

Grateful to share the following reflection, from Amanda McMillen. I’ve been practicing yoga for 8 years or so, on and off, which led me to meditation and the wonderful buzzword “mindfulness”. The idea of mindfulness is truly a beautiful one. It’s the concept of pausing long enough to bring us out of the minutiae of […]

Cathedral of the Perpetual Hustle

Cathedral of the Perpetual Hustle

Over the weekend a conversation with friends veered toward work-life balance and the ever-hungry email monster. We wondered whether it was normal to check our emails after work. Almost all of us confessed that we do. We discussed whether our employers should be contacting us after hours (a teacher was expected to answer texts from […]