Class rankings became available a few weeks ago, and the competition has become fiercer than ever before. I've noticed a sharper edge to the attitudes of some classmates of mine. And maybe it's my paranoia kicking in, but this change in demeanor is timed perfectly with the timeframe within which class rankings were released.
When I was in ninth grade, my AP Government teacher used to scold me for judging my worth on the numbers placed by my name. He used to tell me that 10 years from now, none of my worries about grades would matter. That I would be living a life that was determined by how well I utilized my experiences, not by how the numbers on my reports spoke of me.
Those words never fully sat with me until a few weeks ago when class rankings came out. I think the magnitude of his statement could not express itself beforehand because it hadn't been given the ability to do so, but at the first chance provided to dominate my concerns, it has. I'm concerned not for where I stand but for how others view themselves in comparison to myself and to their peers.
Several faces appear in my mind at the thought of the word "competition," from them mentioning their love for it to them dictating their friendships based on it. People choose their friends based on who they know they're better than. People don't talk to each other because they think they're smarter than one another. People think they are superior because the triple digits on their report cards say so.
They've plagued my thoughts, the worries I have about my own grades, but those nights I've spent fearing for the plunge my numbers are bound to take, my friends have also experienced. Yet the common feelings we share about our successes are what keep us walking on separate pathways in life.
My graduating class is competitive to a worrying extent, and it drives us away from each other.
My graduating class avoids friendship because even moral support is seen as betraying one's personal success.
My classmates don't look each other in the eyes because others can find weakness hidden inside.
My peers refrain from expressing emotions because numbers are all that define who they are.
My friends believe competition is what drives friendship because others' failures equate to their own rewards.
I have to apologize if what I say comes off as insensitive or merely blunt, but isn't there a truth to the sentiment? Isn't there some sort of understanding with the idea of confining oneself to a GPA, to an SAT score, to a test grade?
I have been pulled aside by a friend and told that they're on-board with the idea of having "friendly competition" but that I should be careful with what I do and say. Out-of-context, this can be used as a vindictive statement told by a classmate that I could be including just to support my own side. But even with context, the concept of a person I once considered a close friend telling me to watch my back is... painful to consider.
If the numbers on our academic records are so important, should we not be proud of each other for bringing these numbers higher? At least — if we can't stop ourselves from defining our values based on our grades — be genuinely happy for the success of our peers! These are the people we've associated ourselves with, and likewise, they've devoted their time to us. There must at least be some sort of community, some semblance of support that we can foster based on our true compassion for the graduating class's collective success.
It disappoints me that this is only possible in a utopian society because we've become clouded and consequently blinded by visions of overpowering the people around us. I like to trademark pieces by ending on a positive note, but the firmly-rooted feelings of animosity we've been conditioned to feel for each other prevent me from doing so.
It's come to the point where we've painted a future for ourselves in which our success comes not from the goals we conquer but from the dreams others can never reach.