If you’re reading this, congrats – you have made it through the first few weeks of the school year. You may have experienced hell with your sticky hot uniform and sudden flux of workload, but you did it, and I am so proud of you.

I know you think this school year is just going to be a giant bitch slap lasting for ten months, and you may want to scream each time you take one step further inside the fiery pits of this supposed underworld – trust me, I really, really, really, really really really know how that feels. Let me tell you a pitifully witty anecdote from my seemingly-interesting-but-not-really life.

Last school year, my grades started to drop like my fire mixtape for no apparent reason (???). I started feeling crappy because I felt like I was failing everything I attempted to do despite giving everything I’ve got. I started questioning my worth, and feeling like everything I did was wrong. Your resident top of the class since fifth grade fell to a bittersweet third.

I took the news harshly at first; I just thought it wasn’t fair, how everyone keeps saying ‘if you do your best then you could achieve it’ and all that pseudo-motivational BS, deluding us into thinking life isn’t going to punch your throat and take your lunch money if we ‘do our best’ and ‘give our everything’.

I was a bit better when it happened again during the second quarter – I got an A in math, and honestly being third isn’t as horrid as I make it sound (it’s still something to be proud of, at least). Everyone then started asking me, “What’s happening to you?”


Man, if you really want to talk about discouragement, let’s talk about how everyone in the whole gotdang universe asked me, “what’s happening to you?” in this very annoying sympathetic tone. When the guidance counselor dished out /the/ question in the !!rest room!!, that’s when I lost it. HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO ANSWER THAT??? WHAT KIND OF RESPONSE DID THEY EXPECT??? “Oh you know just trying to disappoint myself for a change” ?????  ???? ??? ???? ??????

You may think it’s not even a big deal. I dropped two places so what, but the amount of pressure we get when it comes to ranking is insane – some people are ‘just happy to pass’, and man I am too, but when you get recognized, people start treating you less like a person. They leave no room for error, and when you’re ‘smart, you should know this’ or ‘why don’t you know this I thought you were smart’. The expectations they set were so inhuman that I myself began treating myself less of a human. Who cares about meals when I got this AaaAAaaAAaAAAAAa !!!! My grades are so HIGH I can barely see it woooo what mental health ???!?? I don’t have friends anyway hOOO HA

I then realized that I’m not even studying for myself anymore, that I’m doing it because people expected me to, and no one, NO ONE, should ever do something just because people expected them to. I mean, what’s the point? Are they really that important of a person that you have to conform to what they think of you instead of letting yourself fly free like the beautiful colorful wonderful butterfly you are? 

Obsessing over rankings is also nonsensical and unhealthy, and I’m so embarrassed to admit that I got fixated on a certain place on a list. I mean, it’s completely situational; it all depends on the circumstances, and not how smart you really are (and grades aren’t stone-hard proof of how smart you are!) You know the thing teachers always say? “I don’t make your grades I just compute it you give me the grades blah blah”?  Surprise, surprise, it’s not completely true. Grades are mainly just their opinions of you, and school only tests you on certain things, like how you deal with workload and pressure. Who gets the highest marks doesn’t really matter, because if I put them in a roomful of people with higher grades, they’d seem inferior, and if I put someone with low grades in a roomful of people with even lower grades, they’d seem superior. It’s all just circumstance. It doesn’t prove anything. It’s just bait, something to give students something to work for. (If you're proud of your standing in the class, good for you! If you aren't satisfied with your rank, take it easy on yoself!)

So to all the people who asked me what in the world possessed me into getting a rank lower than they expected, what happened was that I chose what was best for me. I chose my mental health, I chose to forgive myself and to celebrate my victories (because everyone seemed to boo at my failures but no one applauds at my little successes), and I finally chose myself.

As much as I really want to end this story saying I finished my junior year as the ever glorious valedictorian – just kidding I don’t want to end it that way even if I had the chance. I got third after everything, and I was happy. I started thinking that maybe people expected so much from me because they believed in me, and that was really humbling, but I don’t owe anyone anything. And I was really proud of myself for realizing that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is it will really get better. I know this is cliché, but it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t true! You feel all cranky and angsty right now because everyone’s still adjusting to this new era, and everyone’s as nervous about it as you are. It’s like when you wear new shoes for the first time – you’ll get blisters and your feet will hurt, but a few more attempts and it’ll feel like it’s a pair sent from the heavens. You just have to keep trying.


  1. I love all the sass in this story (AS IF I WAKE UP EVERY MORNING AND THINK “OH GOLLY GOOD GOSH WHAT A NICE DAY TO GET LOWER GRADES”?????????? ) and you are just perfect! I admit that sometimes I get a bit obsessed with getting higher grades, but I never really let it cut into my laziness :p.