Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Peak Performance

When one of my daughters was in first grade, she had a crush on a boy in her class. She had great taste - he was the sweetest boy who also happened to be the smartest and cutest boy in the class. She was not the only one crushing on him. I remember laughing about his "in demand" status with his mom who thought it was all very adorable but admitted she was concerned he might be peaking too early. I dismissed the possibility at the time but have thought about it recently. Kids today do accomplish so much when they're young; could some of them be peaking too early and, if so, what does that mean?

I used to know a woman that I revered as a child. She was a world traveler who was interesting, charming, funny, eclectic and energetic. She had three kids and poured every ounce of herself into them when they were very young and, through it all, remained an interesting, charming, funny, eclectic and energetic woman who continued to travel the globe. And then she wasn't and she didn't. I don't know if baggage from her own youth caught up with her and took over or if she just peaked early, exhausted herself and then never recovered. No matter how you look at it, the result was tragic. I will grant you that it would have been far more tragic if she had indeed peaked as a child and never accomplished the many things she did. But I don't actually believe that children can peak too early. Frankly, I'm just not that pessimistic. I think children possess boundless potential and there's always more they can do, explore and experience. However, I can't help but wonder if there is a point of peakness later on, after which you peak no more. I'd like to believe that though individual experiences end, there's always something more out there. If you're engaged in an experience that has ceased to bring you joy and satisfaction, maybe it's time to seek out a new adventure so you can peak anew. And don't forget to find some time to rest along the way - conserve some of your energy for the peaking that has yet to happen.

All this peak talk has me thinking about mountains and mountains make think of Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. This book is perfect for middle graders, particularly those with an interest in life and culture beyond their own experience. Minli's quest to find the Old Man in the Moon who holds the book of fortune is empowering as it is the tale of a young girl who takes it upon herself to improve her family's situation. It is also incredibly enchanting and entertaining with its beautiful storytelling that incorporates Chinese folktales, in an of themselves some of the most wonder4ful stories ever told.

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