Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Index Card Kid Grows Up

I knew this kid in high school. He was, to put it mildly, goal-oriented. Now, I believe a little of that sort of thing goes a long way. And one didn't have to be Columbo to surmise that he came from a family with extraordinarily high expectations for him, and that his goal preoccupation was inbred. This classmate of mine always carried around an index card that listed his current school schedule, along with the grades he was shooting for in each one of the courses. His goals were extremely precise, too. He didn’t work with wide parameters like 90-95 or 92-97. No, he simultaneously established the bar exceptionally high and was highly specific. He anticipated grades like 98.2 in AP English and 97.5 in AP History, and nothing less would do. Grades that fell short of his stated goals were deemed failure.

I had long wondered what became of this kid. Like me, he’s an adult man now closer to fifty than forty. I came from a family that didn’t require index cards, or even a less formal brand of goal setting. While I grew up in a mostly benign atmosphere, there was nonetheless this underlying feeling that if any one of us achieved something, it wasn't much of an achievement. After all, it was us that we were talking about. Permit me to paraphrase comedian Jackie Mason here: “I make this observation with all due respect.” Really, though, there should be a happy medium of some kind between the index card and indifference, which is, I suppose, the quintessential parental tightrope.

Anyway, I long suspected one of two things happened to the Index Card Kid in his adult incarnation. He either imploded altogether from the intense pressure, and ended up on skid row as a pathetic alcoholic or cokehead—working at the Olive Garden between rehab stints—or he became an ultra-successful lawyer or doctor.

Courtesy of the world getting smaller and smaller, I’ve uncovered the answer to that intriguing mystery. Happily, it is the latter life course. Evidently, this formerly young person has hit the jackpot with the goals on his adult index cards apparently reached and even surpassed. From all that I’ve gleaned, this man certainly knows what he’s doing in his field. And I’d feel comfortable accepting his opinions and relying on his judgments in his profession. Still, I get this uneasy feeling that the Index Card Kid, now the Index Card Man, would not be much fun to talk with, or socialize with, unless, of course, you too are an Index Card Man or Index Card Woman.

1 comment:

  1. From a longstanding tradition of indifference (my parents didn't even know about my grades after high school, and didn't ever check them in H.S.), what I saw of the pressure-cookers in which index-card people I knew lived, I guess I got comfortable with it! Enjoying your blogs... :-)


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