If you could summarize the majority of my life, it would be found in the attempt to make other people happy. As a high school student, I stretched myself beyond what was normal to get the highest grades, participate in the most activities, and obtain the best SAT score possible. Embarrassingly enough, I lost a bit of myself in the process of revising my personal statement until it was deemed perfect, taking endless test preparation courses, and spending my free time in a classroom to study for my upcoming AP tests.
I thought the battle for perfection would end as soon as I entered my university, that I would finally feel ease in what I was doing and the direction my life is headed in. However, now more than ever is the looming pressures to get the highest grades, participate in internships, and know exactly what you want to do after college. I'm already beginning to get mail for graduate school admission, offers for careers and am constantly reminded of the importance of being a "one size fits all" student. Yet, what happens when you don't get the grades you want, the position you deserve, or the test score you worked for? Does it diminish your worth, your qualifications to be in the university, or cause the death of your dreams?
This quarter, I didn't get the 4.0 GPA that I aspired for. Yet, here's what I got instead.
2 A's in classes that completely engulfed my mind and made me genuinely excited to come to class (even if class was at 8 AM every week), a C+ in a class that genuinely challenged me to study and learn the concepts, various internships in the journalistic industry, two conferences that completely changed my life, mentors and friends that make my life meaningful, a magazine staff that reminds me everyday of the potential student journalism has, a street team of members from twenty different countries, and of course, a Corgi that waits for me to come home on the weekends. I participated in two different protests on issues that I cared about, and saw the flame of a student activist grow inside of me. Although my first quarter was ridden with personal issues, I gained incredible campus resources such as counseling and somehow found the strength to wake up every morning with the belief that I can get through the day. Through participating as a First Year Fellow in my student government, I worked to create initiatives to diminish the student-coined "rape trail" on campus, increase accessibility to the student government and campus administration, and make life a little more darling along the way. I planned programs for my Residence Hall Association, wrote op-eds for my student newspaper, The Highlander, and even got to present my ideas to the Chancellor of my university.
If you asked me ten weeks ago, I would have told you that my main goal at UC Riverside was to get the best grades possible, to sweat and bleed and study until I got all A's on my transcript. However, as I continue my educational journey here, I'm beginning to realize that's not the case. Yes, I am paying to attend classes, and will make succeeding in them a priority, but college is so much more. What makes college memorable isn't the hours in a classroom, but the time spent learning through experience, both when they are a failure and success. Your worth isn't found in how well you can analyze a production possibilities curve, it's in understanding the origins, context and application of the concept itself.
I am more than A, B, C, D, or F on my report card. My worth does not consist of the first five letters of the alphabet, but rather my heartfelt desire to investigate and research things that are important to me. Educators, professors, and students alike, it's time for us to end the destructive culture of perfectionism and transition into a safe learning environment where students are forced to deconstruct the concepts through their innate natural curiosity. It's time to stop teaching students to be anxious on the test date and dread finals week, but rather encourage them to take pride in what they know, and become proactive about where the gaps in their learning are. I've learned more not in achieving a perfect grade, but in the moments I fail, where the dirt is on my face and all options seem to be extinguished.
My fall quarter was full of experiences that I'll remember far more than the definition of a civil war (which is, by the way, an armed conflict within a sovereign state between opposing groups that were under common authority before the hostilities began). Winter quarter, you've got a tough act to follow.