The Terror of Winning: the "Maw Moment" for Kids in Poverty
When a person who has worked hard for years, putting in the hours of toiling, the late nites of creating, the frustrating start-stop moments involved in innovation…when this person is finally staring directly into the “Maw of Success,” it can be daunting. Sure it’s absolutely exhilarating realizing that all the time and effort you’ve put in is beginning to pay off. And you know full well that you can’t slow down one bit. For entrepreneurs, this “Maw Moment” seems often to coincide with the same moment they’re seriously considering tossing in the towel.
For students, the “Maw Moment” seems to coincide with that last term before graduation and we start to show signs of “senioritis” which is a perplexing combination of excitement and fear of the unknown in the next step.
Can you remember that awesome feeling of “This is actually going to happen!” and right behind it, the sickly feeling of “Ugh. It is. Am I really going to be able to do it?”
Now imagine if the road to success meant that you had to literally leave behind everything you’ve ever loved and everyone who’s ever been there for you in order to take that next step? Imagine the Hero’s courage that would take — to choose between success and gaining everything you’ve ever wanted, or staying back where it’s comfortable, where you know what life is like.
Because that’s what we (teachers, society) are asking kids in poverty to do when we ask them to succeed. To pull themselves up by their bootstraps. To leave the old life and ways behind for a different existence. And it’s terrifying. And many choose to fall back, afraid of that success.
To be that first person in our family who graduated from high school or college? It’s a big deal sure, but even that, as we know, is not success. No, it takes another step, and then another. And it seems like an endless series of pitfalls on a steep slope.
Is success a mountain that we climb, step by step, trying not to slide back as we go? Where we can pause on the trail to rest when we feel like it?
Maybe for those from a different background. But for those from poverty, maybe it’s more like this…
The path to success, in reality, is like climbing up to the edge and peeking down into a dark and endless slippery slide. We work hard to get to the top, and then willingly take that last series of steps to drop down out of sight of the past, all the while flailing to stay in some semblance of control as we are carried through that moment to … where? Where will the slide spit us out and how long will it take to get back to the ones we love? Yes, the thrill of the slide is what we’re looking for, but life seems to become a blur when we’re in it. And what happens to life outside the slide while we’re there? What if I miss it while I’m being what I want to be? And what if the slide takes me to where I don’t want to be? Or what if I’m spit out over the edge of the slide? What if things get out of control on the way and I lose myself, everything I’ve cared about, in the whoosh of the path?
To take that risk is huge. And when we do that that risk, and we find ourselves sitting at the edge, staring into that maw of success…it’s scary. And we feel we’re all alone.
I don’t have anything smart to say at this point, other than sitting at that point can be terrifying. Is there any wonder why, when faced with reaching our dreams, some might pull back?