This I Believe

Mali - Newton, Massachusetts
Entered on December 4, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

My Best

The best kind of person is one who relies on one’s self. And the best kind of person is one who follows his will. The best person is the one who shoots for the moon, and the best person is one who never gives up.

Once in a while I google the word “best” just to see what comes up, and usually a site with numerous quotations is the first link I see. When clicked, that site shows an endless list of opinions regarding what the best kind of person is. Each is a particular belief about what it means to be superlative, and essentially, each reveals what the believer values most.

But if I were to choose one belief to stand by in life, I would choose this: to be the best is only an illusion. I believe that in order to live, and really live, one has to be open to all options, and to living by more than one single statement. To me it seems too boring to narrow down ones future to a single goal.

I have grown up in a family consumed with superlatives. My dad, if asked, would strive to be a man that holds himself together, any and all the time. “The best man,” he would say, “is one that can rely on himself to push himself forward. Only then can he truly call himself a man.” My mom would have argued that the best person is one who can be open with and to everyone, and that to be open to weakness is to be the stronger. My grandparents? They would draw from their past as holocaust survivors, believing that to be successful is to learn from ones history; that which doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.

My family members are all set in their ways, so set that they have come to accept nothing but that which falls under the umbrella of their standards. To me, it is sad that my family have lived their lives with such closed minds, but their critical style wouldn’t have affected me had it not been forced upon me as well. In order to be accepted by them, I have to meet their all or nothing standards, and agree with their black and white thinking. If I don’t get an A in chemistry, I’ve failed my father, and if I’m not the best in my orchestra, I’m useless to my grandmother.

It’s taken me a while to get through the stifling values that guide my family’s lives. It’s like each member of my family is on their own railroad, with only one thing to rely on to push them forward. I have spent my life jumping from one track to another, confused and only trying to settle. Those times I’ve been too tired to jump, I’ve sort of stopped moving all together, coming to a stand still in hope and direction.

Recently, I’ve realized that characterizing the “best” is only a narrowing of options, a way of seeing in tunnel vision. I think that people are what they can be, and defining the best is only limiting a vastly diverse realm of possibilities down to one way to be. I read Emerson’s famous writings in my tenth grade English class, and I adore most of his beliefs, besides for one consistency in his writing. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles,” he states. But when I read this, I think, really? Nothing? How can he say that every single person he speaks to, every individual he reaches, will achieve peace only in themselves? The conclusion I come to is that Emerson has a point, no doubt. But his point is not the only point, because for the many people in this world, there is more than one way to achieve peace.

Acceptance is what I strive for. Not to be accepted, but to be able to reach the point when I can accept the people around me for what they are. Not to compare them to superlatives, or expect them to live by a certain dogma, but to realize that Emerson was strong for relying only on himself, but my mom was just as strong for letting herself lean on others. I strive not to limit people to being one way, or to preach a certain doctrine by which to live. I strive to be able to be okay with more than one way of living, and to understand that people are not merely comparisons to standards or superlatives. As I grow up, I want to live by only this limit: to be the best person you can be is to have more than one option that can qualify as “best”. To be the best is to accept the way people differ, and appreciate the beautiful diversity of the human race.