I’m finally starting to learn the difference between being ahead and doing just right. Yes, just right sometimes means average, and average feels unacceptable for students who have been on gifted/honors/AP tracks for most of their American education. I remember being in a regular classroom in sixth grade and the first semester of seventh grade, and I felt my brain cells were dying. Most of all, I felt less, because I wasn’t ahead with the gifted kids and I wanted to be gifted. I so deserved to get out of the regular class. Finally, I entered the overachieving culture of gifted/honors/AP students, and I proved myself through grades. Unfortunately, that also cushioned my ego, making it very sensitive to my grade fluctuations, and my dependence on grades for confidence took a toll on my sanity and soon, my grades (yes, ironically). I starting pulling all-nighters in 8th grade, and this habit affected my family until I graduated high school. I thought these all-nighters gave me extra time to do perfect work. It did give me extra time, but I didn’t produce perfect work. It was also torture. When I don’t sleep, my body feels this itch beneath my skin like I have to move and work until I collapse and sleep for 20+ hours, which is what I did on Friday afternoons to Saturday mornings. I was torturing and isolating myself for my grades while my classmates seemed to live relaxed, appropriately social lives.
While I promised myself that college will be different, I starting to pull this again second semester of college when I felt I was struggling in two classes, and I soon withdrew for reasons that will require another blog post. I re-took some courses at a local university, and I learned that average behavior, not perfectionist behavior, was what earned me my straight A’s. I completed work according to the teacher’s criteria, handed in on time, and received the grades I deserved and fixed what I got wrong. In other words, I finally grew up and let go of the world where I constantly had the advantage of better teachers, more opportunities, and a better learning environment over my peers, because that world is not real life. I had to re-learn how to live rationally rather than competitively, and most importantly, how to be sane, content, and smart.
I know I’m not the only one who suffered this. Plenty of students put on the mask that everything is okay when they just want to crawl into a hole and sleep for two days. I’m not the only one, right?