This evening, I was inducted into the National Honor Society. I suppose I’m proud of myself for my academic performance–though, because I’m riding on the coattails of my freshman year, I really should be thanking that self-hating, compulsively perfectionistic girl I once was. You did a good job, little me. Anyways, I really only wanted the title. It felt prestigious to walk across that stage; plus, I enjoyed pretending I was a tough-minded, high-powered businesswoman.
The ceremony got me thinking once again about the letters and numbers the school system measures us against. We inductees were there in that auditorium because we got good grades (we had to fill out a form with leadership experience and write an essay about it, but we wouldn’t have even been invited without the grades). They were treating us like royalty. As much as I enjoy being praised, it kind of made me uncomfortable. Why am I supposedly more intelligent and prestigious than the people who didn’t get in?
They hailed us for our diligence and character, but it was all wrong. Yes, we couldn’t have gotten in without volunteer hours and an essay, but the chance wouldn’t have even been offered to us if we hadn’t gotten the 3.5 GPA. How is that fair? Our grades make us somehow more noble and diligent than people with worse academic performance, but equal (or better) character.
I feel like I don’t even deserve my place in the Society. I have absolutely no work ethic. I do as little as possible to get by, and I’m very uninvolved with my school and life in general. I’m in because my stellar freshman grades are managing to dilute my not-so-pretty sophomore and junior performance. I’m in because I kept failure logs and snapped rubber bands against my wrists when I was fourteen, yet I am hailed as an intelligent and revolutionary rising star of our generation. The real revolutionary is the kid who works his ass off day in and day out, just managing to scratch by with D’s. He deserves to be in the Society, not me. What about the rising star who gets very poor grades, but spends every bit of her time pouring into others’ lives and doing charity work? She should have my place.
To be fair, though, I have overcome a great deal of adversity in the past two years, and I am prouder of that than I am of my grades. The fact that I still managed to get straight A’s while clinically depressed/manic completely baffles me even to this day, but those marks are really only a small part of the larger, more important picture. Since I entered high school, I have had three therapists, three psychiatrists, two therapy groups, have been on four different medications, spent seven days in a psych hospital, and took a million steps toward a fuller, happier me. Those numbers–not the silly decimals in my GPA–are the ones that help tell my story.
But I don’t want to toot my own horn. There are others who have gone through similar or worse things, but weren’t lucky enough to get the grades. There are others with completely different stories who are just as deserving as recognition as I am. And, in reality, I’m not being recognized for the turmoil I have endured. I’m being recognized for how I lived up to a narrow and objective standard while I was in the midst of that turmoil. The Society wouldn’t care if I’d been constantly happy all the way through the school, and they wouldn’t care if I was on the brink of a mental breakdown, either. They don’t see the individual; they see what they have produced. And I don’t feel qualified.
I walked that stage with my head high, legs only slightly shaking from nerves, being awarded with something I shouldn’t even have credit for.