In elementary school, the student with the 64 pack of crayons was the most popular. It didn’t matter if you got a 90 and they got a 100 because in the end, if you could play tag with me without being a baby, then you’re my friend. I’ll even let you borrow some of my crayons. Everything changed when we started to study multiplication in third grade. Whoever got the most right and whoever moved through the times tables the quickest was deemed the smartest person in class. The ones who struggled bonded together and those who raced ahead whispered together, refusing to tell anyone of how they rose so fast. I was struck by how slow I moved on certain times tables and how quickly I could surpass some, leaving me too fast for those who struggled and too slow for those already at the ten times tables. I wondered if I could gain some insight from my friend who was moving onto the twelve times table, but all she did was shrug and started practicing. I shut my mouth, sharpened my pencil and found myself making enemies with the seven times table.
In eighth grade, my school offered high school classes that were a lot harder than the typical science and math classes. Because of my above average placement (my hard work) managed to get me into those classes, I found myself sitting with my classmates I envied for their speed. I wondered if I could still fit in because I’m here among them, but they had already had the time to bond together. Throughout the year, I found my assignments graced with bright red Fs and number grades never higher than 75. I retreated more within myself and refused to earn points with my voice. The labs spit at me and I spit back at them. I was ashamed about how quickly I was able to come up with numbers and responses.
By the time I was a senior in high school, I had become complacent with the red marks I earned. My heart only ceased in fear when I only had one opportunity left to actually make an impact. I felt like the president with all the power under my nose, but it was only until the last day of my term did I realize how much damage had been done and how little power I had left. Yet, my classmates continued to only look upon each other and whisper their secrets. I saw how they exchanged papers, the student who actually did it gloating in their quick popularity. I saw “study groups” that were full of complaints and critics of the teacher themselves, as if they were above the ones who graced them with knowledge and they complimented it with their skill to cheat. I heard remarks to those who put too much energy in their regard and managed to earn full marks. They called them “Try-hards” because they tried too hard. They tried so hard that they had defeated those groups and those groups hated that. Once again, my past echoed my life and I found myself hissing and spitting at not only my papers, but my peers. I showed them that I wasn’t a try-hard, but I also didn’t have their intellect to be with them. I showed myself that it was easy to not fit in. Was I fine with it? Sometimes I just wanted my papers to not scream and bleed.
It wasn’t until junior year of college did I realize how capable I was especially now that my work benefited my future. It was as if I had been handed the most powerful weapon in the world and I finally figured out how to turn it on. Of course I tried hard. What else would I be doing?
Written: 11/18/16 4:36pm