Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011 6:45:56 PM
The way a teenager views oneself is complex. Often, we struggle to find a middle ground, instead alternating between childish arrogance and a crippling lack of self-confidence. Over the duration of the past school year, an underlying abundance of one of these would prove to send me spiraling into a painfully large supply of the other.
For five years, I have been enrolled in the honors mathematics track at the college preparatory school I attend in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Suffice it to say that I have derived more pride out of this experience than most of my classmates would. Recently, however, it seemed as though I was overmatched by the Honors Geometry course. My math teacher recommended that I step down into the regular pre-calculus course in my junior year. I refused to accept this, and thus, a much greater flaw of mine was unearthed: I held an insatiable and unstable hunger for validation in whatever form it could be received in.
Fickle though it may seem, I took pride in saying “I take honors math.” It made me different. Better. My superiority was clearly defined for all to see, acknowledgeable for my family, the school administration, and anyone who took so much as a glance at my schedule. I led myself to believe that honors courses catered to the higher end of the intellectual spectrum. In doing this, I completely disregarded the vast majority of individuals in regular courses who are smart, kindhearted, and often much more rational thinkers than I.
If I was not successful even with my skewed definition of success, then I felt as though I was relegated to being a failure. In reality, I already thought I was a failure in multiple regards, and as my thirst for such an unhealthy version of personal success became more unquenchable, the amount of pride I had invested into different aspects of my life became far less evenly balanced. I couldn’t get the lead in the school musical. I was not voted to be an elected student official. The combination of these and multiple other insignificant “failings” made me put a greater emphasis on what I began to view as one of very few successful aspects of my life: my enrollment in this accelerated mathematics course.
I constantly pondered the repercussions this would have on my college applications. Every so-called failure began piling up until I inevitably needed to open up to friends, my parents, and the school guidance counselor. The time had come for me to rejoice in my multiple successes so that I would not continue to one inconsequential failure to bring my emotional development to a screeching halt.
Next year, I will be enrolled in a regular pre-calculus course. By the standards of my schedule, that will make me less “special,” and more “normal.” But that doesn’t weaken me. I am an active member of my community. I am capable in my schoolwork. I am a validated individual no matter how you do the math.