The spring semester of my junior year of high school, I had one of those English teachers who loves to give out amazing life advice between lessons of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Well, one particular day, the teach decided to let his class of awkward sixteen/seventeen year olds know that “you’re going to find out one day that, you’re not as great as you think you are…” I remember this distinctly because I, like the majority of my class, was shocked by the idea that I might not be this fantastic person that the “world” was telling me I was. Don’t get me wrong- I probably had the worst self confidence of anybody I knew at the time. This was more of a “everybody around me tells me how wonderful I am so I must be great, right?” type of thing. When the people surrounding you feed you with these tidbits, it’s like every little bump in the road becomes this awful mountain you have to climb and any bad thing that happens to you will be the worst thing in the world. From the moment we’re born, we’ve been rewarded for these little milestones all the time. Like when you first learn to write your name you get a gold star and applause from your rents and teachers. Eventually the gold stars and the applause will stop and you’ll have to make them yourself. You’d think that comes in high school, right? Looking back on it now, I see that it did not.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am only a college sophomore. So it’s not as if I have this vast life experience to tell you that I’m so much better now blah blah blah. I can say that I am so much more self aware of my so called “greatness.” In high school, I always had the safety of a teacher telling me if I was falling behind, a group of friends I saw every single day, the love of coming home and having a meal made for me. Now, going to a school this large, my professors sometimes don’t know my name unless I make an effort to make myself known. My TA won’t confront me if I’m falling behind, it’s up to me to ask how to fix it. I have to make time for my friends and they have to make time for me now. We’re all busy, we’re all doing great things! And the worst of all… having to think up what I have to make for dinner or if I want to be lazy/spendy and just go buy something. Granted, I am still living a sheltered life. I go to a well established university, I live in a nice apartment, and I can still go home if I need to. College is only half a sense of what the real world entails, but that’s something I can worry about later.
My biggest slap in the face came from college came when I was struck with the reality of how average I am. High school put me in this category of above-average students. I took AP classes, I was involved, I volunteered, etc. I also had so many people I thought were my best friends. I wasn’t popular by any means, but I was comfortable. But then this fresh slate came along and I was thrust into a world of people just as above-average or more. Thus, making me painfully average. Suddenly I wasn’t the one who got the praises. I certainly did not have as many friends as I thought I did. I lost touch with so many and I had to force myself to step out of my comfort zone and hopefully create new and lasting relationships. I met people who had done extraordinary things and who, as far as I can tell, will do even more extraordinary things. I was mesmerized and also scared for my life. And that is when those words came rushing back to me. “You’re not as great as you think you are.”
What I didn’t say at the beginning is that Mr. P also said a little something after that. He said “But you know what, kids? It’s going to be okay. You’re not going to be the best at everything. You’re actually going to find out that you suck at a lot of things. But it’s really going to be alright. If you can figure out how to make yourself be as great as you think you are, you’re going to go far. I didn’t really know I wanted to be a teacher, and now it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s going to be okay.” And he was so right. He is actually a fantastic teacher and really is great at what he does. I don’t think I ever cared more about English class than when I was in that class.
Anyway, my point here is that I’m not as great as I thought I was. It took a lot for me to come to that conclusion. But that does not mean I’m not great. I’m actually pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I have passions and dreams that I want to pursue, and I just have to believe that I can be adept at those. I do suck at a lot of things. Chemistry kicked my butt, actually. But I survived. My extraordinary friends also suck at things too, some of them academic, some of them physical or emotional. But they are all great in so many other ways. What I’ve seen is that we all have a lot to offer but sometimes that gets lost in translation. Our worth should not be measured by the number of things we excel at or how many people like us, because that list would leave many of us being worthless. I think we all get to a point where we realize our worth is measured by how we bring meaning into our own lives and finding ways to make life a worthwhile journey. We’ll have to go through awful and horrible things that might make us feel like we’re never going to make it up the mountain. The hope is that we find it in ourselves to keep climbing because eventually things do get better. You meet people who are really gold stars in disguise, you learn that you’re so worth every bit of love after pain, you discover what it means to be content with yourself and that’s what’s truly great.
Until next time my lovelies,