I often feel as if high school- this disastrous, weird, traumatic period of time- defines everything. This is ridiculous, yes, absolutely. High school entails four meager years of learning, most of it arbitrary and difficult, but also crucial. High school is a mess. What tends to happen, is that I become far too caught up within the confines of being the very best.
A. One minuscule letter. One letter. One thing. An A, though, possesses a devious power, one that controls and defines millions of teenagers. An A. Why must we place such importance, such stress, upon this one letter? It controls us. It takes everything we do and manipulates our work, and thus, our work, into being dependent not upon the amount of effort we put in, or our intellect, but instead, what grade we attain. An A. I loathe the A and love it. It is my everything, and this is ridiculous and terrifying.
A grade is my everything. How inane is that? I do not mean to say that an A is ever individual teenager’s everything, because, of course, that is not the case. A “good grade”, though, somehow defines our intellectual capability and our worth as humans in this world. A “good grade” tells us what we are able to achieve and what we supposedly never will be able to achieve. An A is the end-all be-all, for too many, with too little praise.
I am not complaining. High school is meant, designed, to be difficult and require strenuous amounts of effort. I am not dismissing this. I am simply suggesting that, perhaps, a good grade is not the sole achievement one should be striving for, but in this highly competitive and capitalist country, unfortunately, it is all that matters. Who you are, as a human being; authenticity, creativity, genuine zeal for something? All of this becomes quickly shoved underneath the effort required into the vicious pursuit of attaining the highest grade possible. We lose ourselves underneath what we believe to be achievement.
An A is not an easy feat for many; an A does come quite easily to some. An A does and does not define your effort in school. It is a tricky, delicate line, between allowing grades to define your worth as a human being, or allowing yourself to be pushed but not destroyed by the pursuit. Rigorous, passionate work deserves recognition, undeniably, but what about those who work this much and yet continue to be tormented by their lack of an A.
There are the right ways to be intelligent, in the United States, and then, unjustly, there are the wrong ways. Intelligence is both highly valued and, contradictorily, looked down upon. As is evident, blatant, even, in many of the politicians who have somehow won presidential elections, intellect is not what comes first. We, as teenagers, see this. We see the outright ignorance displayed by quite a lot of well-respected people. We see the malicious conquests for power that values cleverness and superiority over respect and intellectual debate. We see what exists here, every side of it. It is endlessly confusing, to be taught to be intelligent yet also to only be the right amount and the right kind of intelligent. We are all human beings and we all have vastly complex and highly different brains. There is no right way. There is only the effort; the passion; the fervency. I fear that I will lose this in high school. I fear that I will become irreparably buried underneath the colossal hodgepodges of unnecessary anxiety and the nationwide race to be the best; the smartest; the most attractive to potential universities.
I fear the loss of self, and I think that although this fear may be subconscious, every teenager fears this as well. The fear must be acknowledged, because, if we continue to bury and lose ourselves underneath the fixed ideal of success that this country has taught us, we will become obsolete, less than human. We will become someone else, someone empty. We are human beings. We should not be empty. We should be full.