Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reading, Writing, and 'Rithmetic

I went online earlier this evening to check and see whether or not final grades had been posted. They had, and, naturally, I received all A's.

Can you practically hear the smugness in my voice as I type this? The arrogance? The self-assurance? The sense of entitlement?

Sigh....I don't know why it is that I am so academically driven. I certainly didn't intend to be that way--things just sort of happened. Years of "gifted" education (I still hate that word), followed by what I proudly (and only arguably accurately) described as "the best high school education available in the country" helped to craft my overinflated ego. I was valedictorian (one of 10 in a very competitive class), editor-in-chief of the yearbook, drum major of the marching band, Bright Flight and National Merit scholar....but I don't know what I was trying to prove with all of these awards and such. It's not that I was competing against my peers, exactly (I'm only a moderately competitive person, and I don't mind being beat by those who are genuinely better than me), and I wasn't really competing against myself, either. I wasn't doing it for my parents, as they really didn't push me, and I wasn't doing it so I could get into an Ivy League college, either. I think, more than anything, I just felt like that since I could do it, I ought to. What excellent reasoning!

And now that it's all over, I can't say that it's really done anything for me. It hasn't changed who I am, really, except that I threw away several years of my life that I could have spent socializing and having more fun. Well, school is cheap, so I guess that's nice, but other than that, I'm really just embarrassed that I worked so hard for something that now seems to trivial. When I started college, I told myself that I wouldn't get in this rut again--that I would keep up at least the minimum GPA to ensure the continuation of my scholarships, but that I wouldn't be the same freak-out overachiever/brown-nosing teacher's pet I had been in high school.

That didn't last too long.

I hid my progress report when it came back with "113% - A new record!" scribbled in the margins. I turned red with shame when a professor stood in front of the class and remarked that "The highest score on the test belonged to the only freshman. That's right! A freshman is beating the rest of you guys!" When my name was called first when exams were handed back, I pretended that they weren't organized by score from highest to lowest. I was taken aback when, at midterm, I received emails congratulating me on my grades. Were they really that extraordinary?

And to be honest, I really wasn't trying all that hard. Sure, I studied some, but most of the time I could have spent studying I actually spent on Facebook or various horse-themed forums. These were mainly easy classes, most of them freshman-level. Perhaps I've built up a false sense of security. Inevitably, there will be a class that ends my perfect streak. Maybe it will be next semester, maybe it will be next year (I hear that Organic is a real bear), or, at the very least, grad school is bound to chew me up and spit me out unless I learn to seriously buckle down and actually study. I've got to get over this sense of entitlement; this attitude of "well, duh, of course I'm going to get an A"; this overall air of academic superiority.

Watching my peers and classmates struggle and complain and quite literally fail, I finally had to admit to myself that things really do come easier to me. I learn faster and retain better. I should neither be embarrassed nor proud of this "gift"--it's not my doing, after all--I should be damn grateful. So, I am. Let me be humble; let me be thankful; let me put it all to good use and benefit others instead of myself.

....but where to begin?

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