It has happened at last.
I made a B.
I can see your reactions. Some of you are sitting at your computer, staring at it, maybe complete with a shocked look on your face. A few more of you (possibly the majority) aren’t even looking at the screen anymore. You’re jumping up and down, rejoicing the fact that I have finally made a B, just like the parties that went on after Voldemort tried to kill Harry for the first time. I digress, though, so I’ll try to get to the point.
Ever since I nearly made that fateful first B [it was in eighth grade], I had been thinking of how I would actually react when the deed really did happen. Because of my reaction to the thought of making a B, I thought the reaction to really making a B would be like the episode of Hey Arnold! in which Helga changes one of Olga’s usual straight A’s to a B+ just to watch the reaction. I thought it would go something like this:
“No! This can’t be happening to me! People won’t be able to call me ‘smart’ anymore without my sobbing into their faces and my telling them that I can’t be smart with that smudge of a B on my record, and because of this B, my GPA will drop even lower than it already has, which would mean that my class rank would drop. Then I won’t even be able to get into college because what kind of college would take someone like me, anyway? Then I won’t get into graduate school, should I decide to go because the B will demotivate me, and I’ll continue to make B’s, and I’ll forever be trapped into the ‘I’ll never be good enough again’ trap, and I’ll be a failure in life! A failure, I tell you! Then my family will disown me because they only appreciated me for my achievements anyway, and I wouldn’t be able to get into school and I’ll wind up cleaning toilets for the rest of my life because I’ll be lonely and friendless because what kind of person would befriend a toilet-cleaning failure who once made a B?”
Yes, that’s what I thought making a B would be like. I thought I wouldn’t be able to show my face in public for weeks, that my family and friends [what few I would supposedly have left] would have to bribe me out of the house in order to get me to reveal myself to the public. I actually once considered intentionally making a B, but as you can tell, I didn’t. Now, for a sense of comparison, here’s what really happened.
I logged onto the school’s website in order to find out my grades. After clicking a few random links, my heart began to pound inside my chest, and I thought about how I was forcing my heart to work harder than it should have been. Then, there it was. The moment of truth smacked itself in front of me.
I had made a B in calculus. There it was, sandwiched in between three A’s [English, Spanish, and world civ]. I stared at the grade and tried to take it in. I even clicked back and forth on the website, thinking that if I went back to it again, it would be gone. But no, the B remained there. I even considered printing it out because I always consider things to feel more final on paper. Then I thought that it would feel like solid evidence that indeed, I had checked out my grades, so I didn’t print the grades.
I thought back to all my tests, back to all the dumb mistakes that hindered me from making an A on the particular test, but I particularly thought back to the test on which I made a D. Unless I seriously messed up on the final exam [I still don’t know what I made on it], that test prevented me from making an A in the class. I had no idea what I was doing on that test. I made mistakes I didn’t know I could make; I skipped three problems [three!] altogether; I even started one problem and somehow forgot to finish it. I made up for it later, but not with high enough grades to make an A in the class, as evidenced, even though I did make an A on the last real test!
Underneath all this guilt and shame, I actually felt a sense of relief. I couldn’t believe that feeling. I had been working myself to death for all these years, and for what? I hadn’t even been living a real life because of my attempts to be at the top. That had been in the spotlight, even when I took a break to focus on my writing. That push to go to the top had always been there, but was it worth it? Was I even going to the top of the academic ladder for myself, or was I doing it for someone else? All my life, I remembered hearing other kids getting rewards for getting straight A’s, or A’s and B’s, or whatever. I never got any of that. I even remember hearing “You need to bring that up” when my grade was a low A, or even an average A. I clearly wasn’t doing it for myself at first, but it eventually became a part of me. I enjoy motivation, but it has to be toward the right things, toward things that I enjoy. Striving for the top of the academic ladder wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed;
I enjoyed the learning process and actually taking in information, not manipulating it for the mere purpose of making it to the top of a ladder that’s not going to matter by the time I graduate from college.
I don’t have to worry anymore. I am stronger than the grades that I receive. Besides, grades are just numbers or letters. Who cares about those? Now maybe, just maybe, I can relearn the meaning of “human relations”. I think I’ve forgotten that meaning over the years.
In the meantime, though, I have a few letters to write. No, neither is a hate letter. They’re actually very nice letters. The first is to Dr. Nimmons, who actually gave me the B. The second is to Miss Kay, who once told me, “I wish someone would give you a B so you can get over it.” Well, now I have, but totally getting over it might take awhile.
P.S. I know it’ll be a little late by the time most of you read this, but Happy Boxing Day!
1. Write those letters
2. Plan for Wriye the First
3. I need a better senior project idea!
4. Shopping time!
19 August 2007: I remember thinking that this would be the end of the world. Now I’m a better person because of it.