I cannot quite pinpoint the moment my sense of inferiority began to blossom. Perhaps it was when I was calmly assured that it was a "good thing you're cute." Or when my freshman year biology teacher announced I had received the highest score on the midterm -- an announcement that prompted wrinkled noses and surprised gasps.
I had gone from the 8-year-old girl with an adult reading level, to the girl everyone assumed was inherently dumb, then to the girl who feverishly tried to prove herself to no avail.
And I couldn't quite blame them. I hadn't worn my intelligence badge all that proudly. I hadn't treated my intellectual capabilities with the respect they rightfully deserved.
Admittedly, I enjoyed the chorus of giggles my "playing dumb" prompted. I began to value giggles over praises. However, had I known that my behavior then would follow me into adulthood, I'd have thought better about being the class-ditz.
By junior year of high school, I had successfully submersed myself into a new group of friends-- the type that valued praises over giggles. The type I had ignored for majority of my youth. The type of group I belonged to, despite my every protest or act of denial.
High school had branded me a variance of labels, but only one directly corresponded to the girl I was -- not the girl I had pretended to be for a few laughs.
I was a nerd -- a fact I had attempted to elude for many years.
Junior year was the year I finally remembered who I was, however, much to my dismay, it was much too late to successfully make the transition.
Because of my prior antics, because of the ditzy persona I had hid behind for so long, I was now regarded as the dumb girl.
No matter how hard I tried, I would always be regarded as dumb. By evading who I was, I had lost the part of me I should have valued the most.
I filled my class schedules with AP classes. I befriended the 4.0 students. I became chief of the school's yearbook. I graduated with honors.
Yet, I was still the dumb girl.
It didn't matter that I passed my AP tests or had the highest score on our AP chemistry exam.
It didn't matter that I spent all my free time reading thick novels, or writing manuscripts to the countless novels I'd never finish.
It didn't matter that I had received a scholarship from my high school for all my hard work and dedication as a young journalist.
None of that mattered because I was forever branded the "dumb girl."
I couldn't blame my peers for this faulty perception either.
And that's what killed me the most, knowing I had single-handedly created the persona I had grown to despise.
I was completely and utterly to blame.
It was with this dismal demeanor that I applied to Central Michigan University during my senior year of high school.
College would grant me the opportunity to recreate myself, or at least be the girl I rightfully was. I would be in the company of strangers -- people who had never, and would never, meet the high-school version of myself.
It was a chance to start fresh. In an unfamiliar city, full of unfamiliar faces, at an unfamiliar school that knew only of my high marks and ACT score.
This time, I wouldn't compromise my intellect to attain laughter.
I wouldn't have to fruitlessly convince people I was smart with pitiful pleas. I wouldn't be forced to fill my course load with perilously daunting courses meant to promote the idea that I was smart.
I would just be. I would simply be myself, and that in itself would exude intelligence.
I wouldn't run from the conception that I was a nerd-- I would embrace it, as I should have done from the beginning.
I'm a sophomore in college now, and everyday I watch as the old me slowly diminishes, and instead being replaced by the version of myself who cries when they get an A on an exam.
The girl I was is merely a ghost -- a frightening nightmare meant to remind me of the consequences of adopting a false facade.
It's important to remember that once you become someone else entirely, you risk losing yourself completely. The monster you created may linger despite your best efforts to shatter its very existence.
Please don't be the girl who has to run 206 miles away from home just to regain the part of you you were too foolish to lose in the first place.
Don't compromise the best parts of you because you're ashamed of them. Chances are, you'll find yourself longing those lost parts of you one day, and it may just be too late.