I had the opportunity to speak with high school students at one of the schools I graduated from recently. After the conversation, a high schooler asked – “Were you a back bencher or a front bencher?”
I explained to him that I was both. There were periods when I was happy to sit in the back bench. And there was a time in my final year of study when I decided it was important to sit in the front bench. So, the 4 of us who were known for being very chatty at the back of the class the previous year all moved to the front.
In retrospect, it was one of those decisions that changed the trajectory of my life. Sitting in front of the teacher and engaging with them helped me focus. Perhaps more importantly, it changed our implicit norms and culture – the same 4 kids who were okay with getting distracted in the past year committed to focus and engagement.
I then became a back bencher in my undergraduate years again. I chose not to engage and focus. I clearly hadn’t learnt my lesson then. But, as I graduated with a sub-par educational experienced, I resolved to never be a back bencher again.
It remains one of the better choices I’ve made.
We can choose our identity.