Aim Higher. Reach Further. Expect More.
It sounds good in theory but there are mixed views on such a mantra. Depending on who you talk to, you will get one of two responses: "Take life as it comes for he who expects nothing shall never be disappointed." This is perhaps the extreme of the first response but it is not far from the true sentiment. This is usually the reaction I get to expectations I have placed on myself or my "typical" child to achieve more or do better. "Take it easy on yourself," they say.
Ironically, I often get the other response when I speak about my "disabled" child and it comes after I have explained that we expect no less of Ella than we do of Jakob. We push her to communicate and feed herself and we expect that she will learn to read, write, go to college and live independently. "That's great!" they say, "she is lucky to have you," (whatever that means). We do not resign ourselves to the stereotypes placed on individuals with Down Syndrome. We aim higher, we reach further, we work harder, we expect more!
But I would hope that one would not have to know us well to see that Ben and I, as parents and individuals subscribe to this as well. We try to give it all we've got in our personal lives, our parenting and our careers. Education is no exception. I have mentioned before that Ben had his choice of schools and he chose Cambridge. Why? Because it is the best. Better than Harvard, better than Yale…the best.
Well, I must confess that lately I have been questioning the value of the best. With no financial help: scholarships, or grants I questioned whether the sacrifice was worth it. While I know it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the education Ben will receive will be far superior to that of UBC, I questioned the outcome. I still do question the outcome. At best, I hope that Ben will secure a part time teaching position at a low level Canadian university or college and will seek an ensemble to work with elsewhere. I see the importance of being in a city centre knowing that job security will be an issue as will income. I expect that, like we have up until now, we will have to work hard and earn it and maybe, if we're lucky, one day he will teach a professional ensemble and work full time doing what he loves.
But yesterday…yesterday, I fathomed for the first time the idea of expecting more.
Yesterday, Ben found out that he would be taught by a composer/conductor that he has come to admire deeply. Eric Whitacre is young, talented and at the forefront of choral music. He is revolutionizing a, dare I say, dying medium. He is the rock star in the world of classical music and at first glance, you would think he was a surfer straight off the beach, when in actuality he is a highly acclaimed prodigy who has conducted orchestras and choirs around the world, had his music featured on Pirates of the Caribbean, founded the virtual choir and has a recording contract with Universal/Decca records.
And while there are other professors out there, in Canada and abroad that have accomplished much, I feel that Eric Whitacre symbolizes something significant to Ben and I. Opportunity. Passion. Innovation. He contradicts everything I had ever pictured a conductor or classical musician to be. Why could Ben not achieve what Eric Whitacre has in his 41 years? He wasn't even introduced to classical music until he was 18. And I don't think that he sat in his classes at Juilliard and thought, I'll just go teach at some 2nd rate school until I can make it big. He just did it. He did what he loved. And people love him for it.
I may be disappointed. My default may still be set on whatever statistically has the greatest chance of desired outcome, but why not dream big?
It is my prayer that I have not even begun to imagine the possibilities, that I have not even dreamt of the outcome or the opportunities that lie ahead. Already, they are trickling in- organizations looking for conductors and going straight to the program director to forward to the students: opportunities for Ben to do what he loves. But you know what the greatest part is? Not only will there be endless opportunities to learn from and work with professionals like Eric Whitacre but Ben will be part of a community saturated with people that aim higher, reach further and expect more. Just ask William Wilberforce, Charles Darwin or C.S. Lewis.
|Light & Gold Concert/Recording Sessions, Aug 2010 (Credit: Alexander MacNaughton)|