There is something to be said about the fear of a test grade when you believe that red-circled number is the value of your worth – stamped scarlet on your chest like a letter to the world that you aren't good enough. When you know more about test-taking strategies than the material being tested on, you begin to think knowledge is defined not by discovery, but simply by textbook regurgitation. You begin to think of success only as something to compare, worth only as something to test on.
When I started college, I still believed I was only as good as my rank, my grades, my transcript.
I looked at the students around me and wondered how in the hell could I possibly stand among them? They were smarter than me and yet I was expected to test alongside them. I was so conditioned to believe my identity as a student I could not see myself as a person without it. Without being the smart one, the one with good grades, I had no idea who I was.
I spent sleepless nights in the library trying to understand material I didn't want to build with just to feel like a failure when my straw house was blown to the ground. My only motivation was to get good grades and my failure to do so was devastating. I mean, what kind of student was I if I couldn't get good grades?
I was miserable.
It was my first university English teacher that sparked something in me that wanted to learn. Finally, I wasn't being given a textbook to memorize. I was being asked questions that left my mind reeling, I was being encouraged to inquire in a way that couldn't possibly be graded. I discovered passion as something that you can't help but work towards, dreams as something that were worth the fight. I stopped caring about the test scores and started to care only about how much I could learn.
I stopped being a student.
I started to gather knowledge because I felt like I couldn't get enough, fueled by my own desire rather than my school-conditioned fear. I began to work harder than I ever had before because I was finally working for myself; sleepless nights became early mornings, and an immobilizing fear of failure became headstrong acceptance of what it takes to succeed. It's not that I stopped caring about school, but that I started to see school as something I was choosing to let teach me. Finding passion helped me to realize that test scores weren't going to get me anywhere but higher on an anonymous rank with 600 other people that didn't even know me.
Passion gave me the ability to stop counting my worth from the top of my paper.
It allowed me to work hard because I desperately wanted to, allowed me to become a person with goals and dreams. School is now something that gives me knowledge and opportunities because I choose to be a person in it, rather than a student controlled by its numbers.
So, along with how to make dinner from nothing but rice, almonds, and milk and how to pack ANYTHING into a book bag, college has taught me to stop worrying so freaking much about being a student. It's taught me to be a person and learn as much as I can on the ride.
It's taught me to be a person.