Middle School Popularity Contest - Most Likely To Succeed vs. Best All Around - The Struggle For Freedom Will Continue
Social Criticism - November 12, 1996
One day while I was in 8th grade at X Middle School in Y (city, edit), California the yearbook committee had a problem to resolve, and approached me with a question. It was loosely structured class time. I was working on an art project near the center of the indoor pod. The yearbook teacher and Lisa Z (edit), one of her student staffers, walked up to me and drew me aside. The teacher said in a serious voice, "This has not happened before, and we need for you to make a decision." Earlier that month, the school had held a popularity contest with about 10 categories. For each category, one boy and one girl were selected, depending upon who received the greatest number of votes for a given category. The winning pairs were to have their photographs displayed in a 2-page spread somewhere near the middle of the yearbook. The teacher continued, "You won 'Best All Around' and 'Most Likely To Succeed.' Which one do you want?"
Socially, in terms of acting self-consciously to gain prestige, I was not that astute. (Or, perhaps, I was so astute that contests like this did not matter to me.) My self-identity was more determined by my active sports life and the heroic deeds of princes in my daily readings of fairy tales than it was by ballot counts for "Best Hair," "Best Smile," or "Most Funniest." Maybe it was partly due to this attitude that I had won. Nonetheless, the results made me happy, giving me a feeling of satisfaction and of being appreciated. I thought about her question for ten seconds. I could have thought about which category would likely have the cutest girl to take a picture with, or which category was considered more popular and important to the student body. But I didn't. As it turned out, the female winner for Best All Around was better looking and more popular than the winner for Most Likely To Succeed. But that would not have mattered to me. I went straight to the heart of the yearbook teacher's question, thinking: "What is the point of being Best All Around if I don't succeed?" "Succeed" connoted a more inwardly focused, life-long orientation toward accomplishment.
I thought broadly about my future, somewhere in the hazy distance, and I wanted to succeed. There was one guy in math who was better than me [A, edit], one guy on the basketball team who was better than me [B, edit], but maybe I was the best in English. But I did not care about being best; I just wanted to be a success. I wanted to be happy with myself. The guy in math was a nerd, and the guy on the basketball team was not a good student; maybe I was better all around than most. But I just wanted to succeed. I looked up at the yearbook people and replied, "I want to be Most Likely To Succeed." One of my best friends at the time took Best All Around, and got to take a picture with a girl who was one of the prettier, more popular girls on campus [C, edit]. But I took my picture, with my partner, who was, perhaps, less photogenic than the other girl, but definitely more intelligent and articulate, standing tall for my convictions, and beaming all the more for it.
Thirty-five years later, I would make the same decision. I have succeeded. I have gone as far as I can on my particular path. I don't bemoan the obstacles I encounter, things that depress or harm life force and human freedom. These obstacles are part of the path. They are things that humanity, collectively, must overcome. My struggle is humanity's struggle. Everyone is doing exactly what they need to be doing. Everyone has their role to play in this. If I can help reduce humanity's exposure to aerosolized heavy metals, genetically modified food, wireless communications, state-worshipping media, and public school indoctrination, then the next generation will, in many senses, have it better, but the struggle for freedom -- for absolute freedom -- will continue.
Regarding the female winner of Most Likely To Succeed. Her name escapes me at the moment (was it L?, I think I just found her at Linked In, edit). She also ran for Student Body President, but I won. I recall my mother being called into the office at the end of 7th grade. Her parents wanted the election results overturned because I wrote in her yearbook, "Dear 'L', Have a great summer and try not to get laid" or something immature and obnoxious like that. LOL. The administrators decided to let the election stand. I thank them for their backbone!
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