As the youngest of all my siblings, I've always felt pressured to outperform them. That, however, is no easy task. All of them graduated from high school summa cum laude, went on to go to one of the top universities in the country, and then went to med school to become doctors.
All three of them.
Compared to them, I'm a bum. I wasn't in the top 10% of my high school class, I didn't get into the University of Michigan like them, and to top it all off, I decided to major in finance as one last middle finger to my family's legacy.
My mother damn near cried when I told her I wasn't going to be a doctor.
After my first semester in college was over, my parents asked me how I did. Although my 3.56 GPA was something I was satisfied with, my parents felt differently. When I told my mom about it, she looked at me like I was a dud — like I should crawl back into her uterus because I wasn't done being a fetus yet.
Once the next semester rolled around, I decided that I was done being a disappointment. I was going to get a 4.0, get an internship, make shitloads of money, and then flex it so that I could feel like I was worth the time and expense that my family poured into me. I devised a game plan for school, which entailed near constant studying and limiting my alcohol intake to Fridays and Saturdays only.
I was on my grind the whole semester, the entire time picturing the new Porsche 911 I would buy some day in order to impress my siblings and parents. After COVID hit, I would wake up at 8:00 a.m. and then work on school until 10:00 p.m. This method worked for quite a while, too — in the week before final exams, I had an A in every class.
Knowing that I had put my entire self-worth into this semester's grades, I put in eight hours of studying a day for two weeks — if I didn't get an A on every exam, all that work would have been for nothing. I cut out all sort of social interactions — even my friend group's ritual of playing Warzone every night.
It didn't work though, and I didn't get an A on every exam — I ended with a 3.75. And for all intents and purposes, I'm proud of it. My parents were happy with it. Even my siblings were impressed.
But after all that, I can't help but feel empty — not because I didn't get a 4.0, but mostly because I didn't get anything out of it. Sure, it's a cool flex I guess, but I don't think it was worth staying in every Thursday or missing out on Warzone with the boys every night. I especially don't think it was worth the permanent damage I've inevitably done to my heart via Red Bull and coffee.
I can't help but wish that I was OK with being a disappointment. Even after "proving" to my family that I'm "smart", I still feel unaccomplished. Sometimes I think like my mom that I really do need to crawl back into her uterus and develop more fully. Perhaps the worst part about this whole ordeal is that it shows me that no matter what, disappointment is going to hit me no matter what I do.
People always say that grades aren't as important as they seem, and I always just assumed they were dumb and simply resigned themselves to mediocrity. But now, after working so hard, I see that the only emotion I ever feel is mediocrity. If that's the case, then why the hell did I ever study so much?
While it's true that I know accounting and economics like the back of my hand now, I've never been able to tell stories about them to my friends, and that's probably my biggest regret of college so far.