I was the “smart kid” type. You know the one. That kid everyone went to when they forgot to do their homework. That kid teachers praised for being so bright. That kid that felt failure when they received a “B” on an assignment. Yep, that was me. Story of my life.
But it didn’t start that way.
My first taste of the academic hierarchy started in sixth grade when my best friend at the time was accepted into the Gifted & Talented (GATE) program at our school and I was placed into regular classes. Average classes, some could say. It mind boggled me to why she was accepted into the GATE program and I was not. We had most of the same classes in elementary school, our learning styles couldn't be that different.
The following year, I practically fought my way into the GATE program...or at least proved myself. One of my teachers recognized my potential and requested that I switch into her GATE English class early on in the year. I gladly did with the only minor set back being that I couldn't switch into GATE math as well. (I chose to take Spanish, which was the same period as GATE math. Tough decisions were made here.)
From then on into my high school days, I always found myself competing with my classmates in what was now considered the honors program, especially the ones who were my friends. Everything always had some sort of merit towards it whether it was getting an "A" on a paper or a "100%" on a test. When grades came out and I didn't make straight A's, my world came crashing down. It crumbled when I got my first "D".
When I saw that "D" blemish my report card, everything I had worked so hard for seemed worthless. What good was it if I couldn't at least pass with a "B" or even a dreaded "C"? All the honor roll awards I displayed on my wall were torn down because I didn't see myself worthy of having earned recognition for academic achievement. What made matters worse was when college application season came around, that "D" haunted my chances of getting into the universities of my choices.
In the end, I chose the safer route: the community college route. My first two years of college were what most students experienced: an adjusting period. I had recovered from the days of fearing grades lower than "B's," and when my sophomore year came to an end resulting in mostly "C's", I was not as fazed.
Now as a college graduating senior, I look back on my silly obsession with being the perfect student as a reflection of my determination and ambition to achieve what I thought was best for me. I wanted to take advanced classes in high school because it challenged me and I believed I could handle it. My workload as a college sophomore was insane with 21 units because I was determined to get my minor and transfer in two years (an ill-advised course plan I might add because my grades were not the best. However, I did achieve my goal). Everything I made a goal for myself was something attainable that I thought would benefit my dreams and my future.
And you know what? I would not change any of it for anything. Not for the academic awards my roommate receives for having a 4.0 GPA. Not for the recognition from my peers for being a student who can handle life's obstacles and still maintain good grades. Because at the end of the day, my hard work and dedication proves that I am worth more than what my GPA says. If that means being "average", so be it. I would rather prove that I am not afraid to challenge myself and take risks that may or may not work out so well than not try at all anyways.