All my life I’ve been surrounded by people who were in the “gifted and talented” programs. My older brother always gets high A’s in math, language arts, science, and social studies. My mother is a professor. In fact, she is a professor of education. Education and high achievement has always been a constant in my life. The constant pressure of living up to my mother’s name always shrouded my education. The thing about my mother is that she doesn’t vocalize her expectations. So, in turn, I assume all these expectations that have to be met. I make up these unrealistic goals of what I have to be and what classes I have to take. Since I was young, my mother just had this unsaid assumption that we, my siblings and I, would go to college and would get Ph.Ds. Don’t get me wrong; my mother is the best and she is funny, smart, beautiful, confident, and always wants the best for us. However, I saw my mother being a professor, being a mother, being an active member of our church, balancing all these activities and I guess it got to me. I saw my mother and thought that I should be just like her. I would become just as smart as my mother.
At school, I associate myself with high achievers. I don’t befriend them because they are smart. It just so happens that they are all very active in many school events and typically take advanced placement classes. I love them for their humor, their outstanding amount of loyalty, and for each of their own personality traits- not because of their level of intelligence. Because I spend half of my time with these amazing human beings, subconsciously I compare myself to them. That is so wrong of me. Because of my own thoughts about being high achieving and such, I just kept looking at myself and telling myself that I should do better.
I should be better at math. I should be better at science. It was, or still is, math and science that I struggle with the most. All I do in school is worry about is being good at math or good at science. I knew that I hated math but I decided to take two math classes my sophomore year in high school. I thought that this would make me smarter. I thought it would make me feel better about my education level. Compared to my other friends, who were already taking Advanced Placement Calculus as sophomores, I felt so behind. In my mind, I told myself that it was not okay to be this behind. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t behind. I was just at my own pace. I failed to understand that it was okay to fail sometimes. It is okay to not be good at some things.
I don’t blame my mother, my brother, my friends, or anyone for this. It was just myself. I had an unhealthy obsession with going as far as I could. I just didn’t know how far I could go until I would break. I guess education was always my insecurity. What a weird and unusual insecurity. The funny thing, though, is that I never knew that until this year. The beginning of this school year, I completely broke down. I thought I could take all these Advanced Placement classes and be fully committed to five different clubs. It all got to me. One week into school I feigned two sick days. Really, I was so overwhelmed with everything going on in my life. I was so scared of failing these classes. I was so nervous to tell my mother that the previous year I had done very poorly in my classes because I put too much on my plate. I was nervous to talk to my friends because they would always ask how I was doing in school. I didn’t want anyone to know I was failing. I didn’t want anyone to know that I hated going to school because I didn’t want to face my too-full schedule.
I knew, at that point, that I needed to drop a class. The class I wanted to drop out of was Calculus. The problem, though, was that a lot of my friends were in that class. I didn’t want them to see me as not smart enough to take that class. I know that they would never do that but I earnestly believed that they would mock me. The teacher of Calculus was an amazing teacher and I didn’t want to disappoint him. I thought he would be disappointed in me and that I would never be able to look at him the same way again. Even scarier was my mother. How could I tell her that I wanted to drop out of a class? How could I tell my mom that I wasn’t good enough to take the class? I decided to put on my big girl pants and just face the music. These were my consequences I had to deal with. I had to tell her. It was probably one of the most scary things I have ever done. I was so afraid that my mother would see me as a disappointment and a failure. I thought she would see me as not good enough or that I would need to push myself harder. These thoughts were my own. They were never my mother’s intentions. When I finally told my mother, she just said okay. She told me that she knew I struggled with math and that it was okay to not be good at something. At that point, I realized that it was alright to be average. It was okay to not take a heavy course load.
With whom I surround myself with, they push me to be my best. Sometimes, though, I would push myself too hard. I wanted to be like the people around me: extremely smart, incredibly diligent at their school work, the person that people come to for help. I guess I never realized how much pressure I put on myself. I pretended that it was others who were pressuring me when in fact, it was my own mind. Through this year, I learned that it is important to try your best but also know when to take a break sometimes. Sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Sometimes you put all the pressure on yourself when nobody else is. Sometimes, being your own biggest critics can be good and bad. Just, for future reference, know the difference between helpful and harmful criticism. In the end, be yourself and don't fight yourself. Be you because you are good enough. Don't try to be something that you're not.