One of my beloveds came to me recently with a life dilemma that I felt was worth sharing. I shan’t disclose the specifics because friendship. The only information that will matter to you is that my bitty was choosing between two educational paths. The schooling would be the same on either one, but at the end there would be unique credentials earned.
Shmooberry Pie, Q.Q. vs. Shmooberry Pie W.K.
If you will.
And so we sat there, talking about the pro’s and con’s of each path, the benefits and drawbacks and possible repercussions. And neither one of us had to say out loud what we were really talking about because we both knew; those demarcating letters matter to us because we want the world to know we matter. Because we want to prove to ourselves that we matter.
And it got me thinking about self-worth, and the modern lenses through which we interpret self-worth, the way we warp worth. What real inherent value is there in those letters? How has it come to pass that the letters after a person’s name have overshadowed their actual name? Aren’t we skipping a step here?
Let’s look at it this way: no one has ever gone into the locker room of a major sports team, observed the jerseys hanging there and exclaimed,
“Number 46! That guy must be AMAZING!”
No. It is that player’s sweet moves on the field that ascribe him prominence. It’s his half court shot, his left hook, his right arm that make us admire him, that make us remember his name. It is only after all that happens– and that over an entire career– that we come to revere that player’s jersey number because of its association to the player. Without every pass, every dribble, every shot taken, every bunt, every pitch, every breakaway made by that athlete that number wouldn’t matter. It would be nothing more than a couple randomly adjacent digits.
It is the same way with letters. Oh sure, those letters earned after centuries of schooling hold self-pride, they contain the sweat and blood of countless exams and finals and professors. And maybe Carly, that girl who tormented you in the seventh grade will come across your title on Facebook one day, and the letters after your name will cause her over-tweezed eyebrows to raise ever so slightly.
You want to know what Carly will think to herself?
“I guess she became successful. She’s probably making lots of money, has a hot husband. Whatever.” And perhaps, “I gotta schedule a mani-pedi, my cuticles are simply unsightly!”
That’s all. Those letters won’t cause Carly girl to reflect on all the good work you are doing, on the strength of your heart forces. And they won’t cause Carly to change her mind about you, whatever the opinion she holds.
The letters after a name may impress. If only for a moment. But they won’t describe your character, won’t sum up your work ethic or define your integrity. They won’t reveal how much happiness and abundance is present in your life.
My friend came to me asking which path to choose, which letters she preferred to have appear after her name. And so we sat there, talking about the pro’s and con’s of each path, the benefits and drawbacks and possible repercussions. And what I should have said to her was:
One day, somewhere down the line, a postcard will be sent to you. The sender, rushed; their hand will grope still-wet words as they drop the card into the mail slot, causing the ink to smudge ever so slightly. Later, they will notice the traces of blue, the imprint of previously etched syllables on their finger pads. And sitting atop a stack of envelopes inside the box, the postcard’s mailing label will be in tact but for two letters, removed incidentally by their scribe. And then there will be only your name.
And when you live a life you are proud of, when you do exceptional work to service the universe, when you care greatly for yourself and when you show compassion to others, just your name will be enough. It will be all that matters.
And when we are gone, which we all will be some very long day from now, it will be your actions during your time on earth (it’s your sweet moves on the field, see?) that will cause anyone to remember you, to recite your name. And never the letters that came afterwards.
Image credit: La Redoute