May 14, 2024

My high school like many others held a yearly athletics carnival.

In the lead up to this all the boys were expected to compete in “athletics standards”.

Basically you had to show up after school on set days and complete each of the athletic events. It wasn’t so much of a spectacle as a chore.

You’d run your race, or do your long jump, and someone would give you a small slip of paper with your result on it. You’d then take this to some of the teachers who’d be set up under the resource center (library) to input your result into the computer.

Upon inputting the result, the computer would give your “standard” for that event which was a number from 1-10 depending on how well you did. If you were lucky one of the teachers would give you a lolly for your trouble.

The scoring was pretty clear. 1 for participation, all the way up to 10, which was assumed to be some sort of world class athlete for your age group.

The higher the standard, the more likely you were to be put into an event at the real carnival.

The different houses at my school would then compete against each other for athletics standards as well as the athletics carnival itself. The house with the highest average score in standards was always the boarding school as they had no choice but to go to standards every day they were on.

This meant that they quickly completed all the events they had to and then spent the remaining time improving upon their initial scores.

I lived quite far away from school and getting home to play video games was always a bit more of a priority for me than doing standards. So I’d go once, make sure I got all the events done once and only once and then not go again.

I was sporty and considered myself more athletic than average but didn’t really care too much about the results I got. I’d usually get somewhere between a 3 and 6 in most events and that would be that.

Looking back, I can’t help but think that if I were back in high school today, I would probably put a much larger emphasis on sports than academics and would love the opportunity to compete in standards or athletics.

I’d like to think that I’d hold myself to a higher standard than I did back then and truly put in my maximum effort.

But of course I really should be looking at my present self.

On a scale of 1-10, where would I score my current fitness? Maybe a 6 when I’m doing well.

But what if we expand this to other areas of life. Where would I score for my personal finances for example? Definitely not that high.

What about language learning? 1 is participation and I don’t know if I’ve really been hitting that. Despite living in Portugal, I’ve put almost no time or energy into learning the language.

Romantic relationships, time management, friendships, what are your scores for each?

As adults we don’t get graded so clearly anymore. We must rate our standards ourselves or not at all.

I think most of us, myself included don’t consider these things because it highlights our short-comings. We would rather live in ignorant bliss than confronting the reality that perhaps we’re not living up to our ideals.

The problem with avoidance of course is that we live with the consequences of our own standards whether we’ve considered them or not.


Photo is in Cádiz, Spain where they definitely uphold a very high standard of beauty and livability.