Mindset and the Memory Box

As we get closer to moving house, I have been doing some sorting out. Today I retrieved a box of memorabilia from the garage. My life started to flash before my eyes —

There’s a note from a parishioner congratulating my Dad on my birth in Spring 1959. He approved of the “good English names” I had been given.

There’s a big chronological gap (little early childhood stuff in this box, except for a few photos which made it onto a montage done – I think – for my 40th birthday).

Then there’s the religious novel, written in turquoise ink when I was thirteen. One draft only. What confidence! And a short story which the mother of a friend of mine (an editor I think) got quite excited about.

There are the school reports. When I think of the tracking and monitoring that goes on now, they seem superficial and skeletal. No one had heard of formative assessment. I don’t think my teachers had any imposed targets to meet, and nor did I. I wonder if my learning was any the worse for that?

There are a few essays from my sixth form years. There’s my university dissertation (you know, the one about TS Eliot – see my post from September,”Raid on the Inarticulate”). And the one from my PGCE year on children’s reading (easier to write, I remember). Today I didn’t dare read any of this writing, though, because I am so sure it would compare unfavourably with what my daughters produce now, at a similar age and stage. So what’s that about then?

A lot of my husband’s work is based around Mindset Theory. The wisdom goes that you can develop more of a “growth” (as distinct from a “fixed”) mindset – that is, learn to welcome and work with mistakes, take risks, and choose challenges, not safety, in your learning. You see yourself as being able to develop. Your skills and abilities aren’t fixed.

I don’t know if anybody has thought about how your mindset affects the way you view your past. The Eliot dissertation got a 2:2 (with no feedback comments at all – unbelievable), and the PGCE one got very favourable feedback (no formal marks given at all – equally unbelievable). None of my sixth form essays ever got lower than an A-. That must mean that there’s a chance they’re at least OK. But the fact that I even need to look at the marks suggests to me that I’m still looking for external validation. And I’m still so convinced they’re c*** that I can’t open the folders. So the question is, why am I so hard on my former self? Does it matter if my writing was bad, all that time ago? If it was, can I not celebrate my progress since, rather than beat myself up?

There’s going to be at least one more post about this Memory Box. I was going to take it and store it in the new house (at the back of the big new cupboard). But there’s more — I think I need to keep it out for a bit.

Maybe by the next time I post, I will have had the courage to do some reading. Watch this blog.