My Undeserved Recognition

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.



Ache for Freedom

We live in a society where almost everything is listed, labeled, and scheduled. We’re evaluated based percentage points and numerical scores. Our lives revolve around agendas of hours and minutes. Maybe some people work well within those structured systems, but not me. I long for a free life.

One day I’ll escape all this. I’ll spend my days relaxing and deciding how I want to spend my time. If I want to sleep from 2-11 AM, I will. Maybe I’ll write some short stories or become a professional blogger, setting my own hours. I won’t be graded or given GPAs, nor will I have to worry about SATs and strict exams.

I am a human being. Ten thousand words cannot fully describe me. How, then, am I supposed to live up to a single letter? It’s unfathomable. I don’t want to spend my precious days shackled to labels. I ache for freedom.

At four in the morning…

Today and tomorrow, and then the quarter is over. That’s all I have to get through. Then I’m rewarded with a four-day weekend. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

No. It’s not simple. If it were simple, I wouldn’t have stayed up this entire night staring at the wall and eating bananas. I wouldn’t be trying to bag up all my stray thoughts to throw out for the night. I wouldn’t be working on a freaking French project at four in the morning. 

How will I possibly have all the energy necessary to make it through the day? School starts in just over three hours. I can’t go to sleep. I tried that, and I couldn’t fall asleep. My mind is too shot to do anymore homework. Maybe I’ll stare at that picture-perfect smile of mine from over a year ago, the one that needs to be taken out of its frame already. I could always eat another banana. My stomach is rumbling again. 

I obviously can’t write. Even my basic grasp of grammar has leaked out the holes stress and exhaustion have blown in my mind. I am so burnt out. First quarter of freshman year, and I’m already about as worn as a dirty dish rag. 

Just two days, I tell myself. Only fourteen hours of school until the four-day weekend. It seems like so much, though. How could I possibly be this exhausted after just a few months into the school year? This has never happened before. If high school is this hard, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it. 

Not an option

I wasn’t always a perfectionist. In fact, I was anything but one. Starting in fourth grade, I realized that I was lazy by nature. My laziness carried me all the way through eighth grade. It was how I described myself.

I’ve blogged about my switch from lazy underachiever to perfectionist before. It was the end of the year award ceremony this past June. Almost everybody got an award but me, and I realized that it was nobody’s fault but my own. I had dug myself in a hole and had failed to get myself out, so I didn’t receive any recognition. I decided that high school was going to be the complete opposite.

From that day on, I began to hold myself to an excessively high standard, not only in academics, but in my relationships as well. Failure simply isn’t an option for me. It’s not an option with my history of lazy nature. And yes, I have a lazy nature. I have to fight against it.

Holding myself to a higher standard has been good for my grades. I’m nearly achieving straight A’s (I’m not counting my unacceptable A minus in Algebra), which hasn’t happened since the beginning of seventh grade. I need to prove to myself and to the world that I can do well. Pretty soon, I’ll drop the minus from my math grade and get it back up to par.

Goals. I’ve never been a real goal-setter before, but now goals are everything to me. Straight A’s. Straight A’s all the way through high school. No exceptions. B’s will not get me into the colleges I want to go to. B’s will not satisfy perfection. In fact, not even A’s will satisfy perfection. I need to strive for 100 percent, 24/7.

Let’s cross our fingers and hope I can keep achieving. Actually, let’s not fall into superstition. No need for crossing fingers–I’ll just do it. I will succeed in prevailing against my nature of low tenacity.

Abigail: a rubber band dog

I’ve been wondering a lot about my “love intolerance” lately. What causes it? When did it originate? It’s really unclear to me when the intolerance started. I’m going to conclude that it was a gradual onset, probably beginning sometime in fifth or sixth grade. The causes are still unclear, but I’m going to take a stab at it and link it to repeated rejection and verbal attack. Seems like a lot stems from those experiences. Who knew so much damage could occur in a time span of three to four years?

One thing I’ve observed is that love intolerance almost never arises around adults. I’ve been blessed with fairly stable adult influences, and I know my family loves, even as screwed up as we all are. Peers, on the other hand, are a different story. This is where my love intolerance becomes an issue. This is where the problem arises. I try not to let it get in the way…

I know I’m loved, accepted, all that. I have the knowledge in my head. Somehow, though, I can’t etch it in my heart. I don’t feel it. I can tell myself twenty billion times, but it’ll rarely sink in. I could be showered with love and acceptance, then start freaking out whether or not the person even likes me two hours later.

Love does make a difference. I’m overjoyed when I feel wanted. What I’m saying is that I can’t make it last, no matter how much I want it to. I’d like to feel at peace knowing I’m accepted–peace in both my heart and mind. I don’t want to live like “I know you love me, but you don’t really.” It’s terribly confusing.

To me, love is performance-based. A high performance receives a greater quantity and sincerity of love than a lower performance. Sort of like a dog. The dog performs the trick and gets a treat. If he fails, the treat is withheld.

The dog analogy came to me sometime this past July. It felt true to my issue, so I ran with it. I’m going to extend and analyze this analogy now. It’s funny how I see myself as the dog and my peers as the humans. Deep down, do I feel inferior to them? Absolutely. A lot of this is rooted in inferiority, I think. Life, to me, is a ladder. Other people happen to be further up on it than me. When I fail or mess up, I’m knocked down a rung.

It’s scary how performance-based I’ve become, not only with peer acceptance, but with everything. Especially grades. I’m getting straight A’s. By most people’s standards, I’m doing really well. But I don’t see that 97 percent in English. I see the 3 percent I failed to get. A perfect score on that French test isn’t enough, because I missed the bonus point.

In eighth grade, I failed to achieve. Academically, I accomplished little that year. Most of the time, I was failing almost all my classes. Only by getting partial credit for late homework and retaking tests and quizzes did I manage the grades I did. At the end of the year ceremonies in June, almost everyone in the auditorium got up to receive an award, even if it was just the A/B Honor Roll certificate. Not once did I move my butt from my seat. It was then that it really, really hit me–I’d failed. No, I didn’t fail the grade, but I had in my mind. The pressure I put on myself to achieve, or as I put it, “bounce back”, increased dramatically that day. Now, I’m in ninth grade. For most, the slate is clean. But not for me. I have an entire year to make up for.

That’s why I’m retaking Algebra 1. And even then, I’m still only scratching an A minus. I’m ashamed of that A minus. What would’ve been excellent last year is scum now.

There you have it, folks. I cannot fail. Not when I have friendships, college, expectations, self-esteem, and so much more on the line. I’m walking on a tightrope, and I really, really, really can’t screw up now.

Please. Somebody. Show me that it’s okay to fail. Give me a reason to believe that. I’m afraid I’ll snap from the stress, like a rubber band at its breaking point.

I guess I’m a dog and a rubber band. How does that work?