With the tremendous school choice in New York City, it is mightily tempting to go for the biggest, the best, the places with the most to offer. After all, that choice gives you exposure and access to everything that might possibly interest you. Whatever it is, you can find it. Whatever it is, it is there, only awaiting your discovery.
As I watched my daughter receive a few of the many hundreds of awards
given at her school, I was struck by how many directions the students
there had explored. Though they had all attended the same school, it
almost felt as though they had gone to many different ones, so varied
were their interests and fields of expertise.
I could argue that this made for a building full of strangers, each pursuing
his or her own individual passions, separate from the others pursuing
other passions. Yet, as I heard the student cheers each time an award
was announced, I realized that these are clearly not strangers. While
they may travel in small groups based on their interests, these kids
make up a school not so completely different than the school I attended.
Sure, it is bigger. Okay, there were probably people with whom my
daughter never even crossed paths. But it is also a place where she, and
a whole lot of other kids, found a little bit of what would start their
paths. As I stare at the giant auditorium, I am keenly aware of the
idea of being a small fish in a big pond. It is easy to lose your way in
that big pond, and to feel sometimes as though you will get eaten. It is
also possible to experience things the little pond would never have
allowed, and to grow in ways the small pond would have made impossible.
We all sometimes find ourselves feeling very small in that big pond. But
if we are lucky, and persistent, our survival skills there can make us
ready for the ponds--and oceans--to come. Would we choose again to be
that little fish in that big pond? Hard to say. But having been there,
we are now stronger swimmers and more interesting beings--a little more
ready to approach our next big--or small--adventure.