Opinion: Educational pressures limit my passions

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a 4.0 student, overachiever and school-obsessed maniac. In middle school, I always imagined a life for myself that either involved being a full-time student or pursuing some type of academic career. Until now, I have never considered dropping out of school. The problem is not that I am giving up, but rather that I have lost the passion for learning. Many of my problems are due to the immense level of academic competition that exists as well as the way I treat myself.

I have tried so many sports and hobbies but never seem to have excelled in a particular one, and I believe this has contributed to my lack of passion for what I do now. It is the draining knowledge that I will never get far enough with any one activity to be outstanding. I am constantly surrounded by competition, from both myself and others around me. We compete for the best grade, recognition and even social standing. But self-deprecation is the ugly aftermath of achieving anything less than the goal you intended to reach or scoring a lesser score than your peers.

I am all too familiar with the feeling of putting your heart and soul into a project and receiving only an average grade in return. It brings you to a dark place within yourself where you are then questioning if it is really worth it to try if you will not get a satisfactory reward. Ever since the beginning of junior year, I blamed myself for the fact that I am a mediocre person. Person X creates phenomenal art, person Y is taking two advanced math courses, and they both have a clear idea of what they would like to do after graduation. Meanwhile I lived with a chip on my shoulder as I was constantly trying to outdo everyone else around me. Being persistent in its nature and hard to remove, I couldn’t get the chip off and eventually just settled with it and let myself become miserable knowing that my fellow classmates were doing much better than I was.

Recently, a friend confided in me about a bad grade that she received on an English assignment. Through helping her cheer up, I noticed that students are extremely harsh on themselves during times of emotional instability. We are oblivious to the fact that many others share our same sentiments and that causes us to blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. Imagine working extremely hard on an English assignment but getting a lower score than your friend who did not have to try as hard. Other students might have received a better grade simply because they have had more exposure to the topic than you. English-speaking students might have an advantage over the English assignment as opposed to those of us who are English learners or have non-English speaking parents. As a result, they can fluently express their ideas because they grew up speaking English.

Self-defeat and losing passion are such mainstream experiences among members of our generation nowadays. Despite the fact that I might still have a chip on my shoulder–because that is just who I am–I now think that everyone, including myself, should learn to be kinder to ourselves. We shouldn’t knock ourselves down for not meeting our own high standards because, in the end, there is a larger purpose to life than stressing over things you can not control.

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