#7: Grades

They control you and they control me.

I remember a good time of my life (mostly high school) where I was chained to my grades. My grades were a reflection of who I was as a person, and more than that, the ultimate measure of my self-worth. If I got an A, I was amazing. If I got an D, I was a failure.

Part of it had to do with my parents’ emphasis on grades. They weren’t the whipping types, where you’d be grounded if you got a B+ – but they did show disappointment at anything below that. My dad would tease me all the time, saying we only got A’s in our house. God help me if I ever brought home a C.

Now, part of me is thankful for my parents’ attitudes toward school; without them, I would probably be a lot more lazier. And it scares me to think what I would be like had I not had a love for learning.

But another part of me is bitter; I feel like sometimes I need to go to a shrink and yell at them, “Tell me I’m worth more than a grade!” because I know I am.

In high school, I was hit full force with pressure to do well. My school was very competitive and everyone was smart. I lucked out with three or four honors classes and an AP course during my high school career, while many of my friends were in mostly AP courses. We were all contenders for scholarships and big-name schools. No one was special.

I felt worthless sometimes because I defeated myself – how could I compete with them? I ended my freshman year of high school with a 2.9. I had achieved C’s in two of my classes, which was a first for me. I don’t remember how my parents reacted… perhaps I etched it out of my subconscious.

I took me a very long time to realize that the grades on my report card, the scores on my SATs were only letters and numbers. The weight we put onto these measures is ridiculous, and certainly not worth the stress and agony and despair we suffer for them.

In college it’s a different story. I love school, but I don’t let it rule my life. You have to learn to have fun when you learn, as well as remember to breathe.

It’s only a grade. Not a sentence.

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