It was move-in day at the beginning of my freshman year of college. Sometime during the frenzy of unpacking, my mom pulled me aside:
“Remember to have some fun,” she told me, “Party a bit, make some friends, and have a good time!”
I’m sure I nodded and said of course I would. However, I soon brushed off the moment, despite knowing full well that no other mother was telling their child to let loose. Looking back, what seemed like crazy advice on the surface was actually a genuine plea from my mom begging me to live a little.
Yet, after over 15 years of school, including seven of prep, that measured my worth with a system of numbers and letters, acting on that advice was difficult.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken pride in my academic achievements, especially my grades. Anyone could tell me that I was smart. However, I found their observations of me to be too subjective to take seriously. If I got an A, that was solid proof of it. Somehow, I got it into my head that tangible measurements were the only valid ways to assess my intelligence, and by extension, my worth as an individual.
During my first week of college, I genuinely tried to be the outgoing, personable girl that everyone would want to be friends with. I said yes to every invitation, went to the club fair, and tried to spend as little time in my dorm room as possible. Yet, by the end of the week, I was left exhausted and without any real connections. In all honesty, I wasn’t surprised. I probably sounded as fake as I felt.
I soon slipped back into my old habits and threw myself into my work. I ended the year with a 4.0, but without the fulfillment such an achievement should have brought. I felt as two-dimensional as the paper those grades were printed on.
Luckily, a lot has changed in the past couple of years. I don’t know why for certain, but I think it may have been the not-so-shocking realization that I was the only one who still cared about perfecting my academic performance.
Slaving over my schoolwork no longer made me “smart”; it made me boring, and no one wants to hang out with a boring person.
So, slowly but surely, I began to put myself out there. A coffee here. A club meeting there. Then, one day, I realized that I had quietly surrounded myself with a group of amazing people.
It was liberating to finally be freed, for the most part, from my prison of letters and numbers. I still draw some meaning from good grades and high exam scores, but with my college career coming to an end, the feeling is fading fast.
I’ve grown enough to have confidence in my intelligence and to find fulfillment in other facets of my life. I try my best. In short, I’m having a good time.