Woes of a Child Prodigy

They told me I was smart, they told me that I was destined for greatness. All because I bubbled in correct answers on a standardized test. I understand that she said those things to motivate me, to push me onto the correct path. But all she really did was put an obscene amount of stress on a child’s shoulders. My teachers, family, and classmates looked at me like I was ‘advanced,’ and I believed it. I took every word that she said to heart and tried to be the prodigy that she painted me out to be.

But what she forgot to forewarn me of is that every human inevitably has to fail.

When I was six years old, I was pulled out of my math class and was told that I was ‘special.’

They talked about my subpar test scores, and for the first time in my life I had the mentality that I was supposed to be perfect drilled in my head. My teacher spoke to me in words that were too large for my young self to fully understand, but I walked out of her small office with an entirely new outlook on life.

They told me I was smart, they told me that I was destined for greatness. All because I bubbled in correct answers on a standardized test. I understand that she said those things to motivate me, to push me onto the correct path. But all she really did was put an obscene amount of stress on a child’s shoulders. My teachers, family, and classmates looked at me like I was ‘advanced,’ and I believed it. I took every word that she said to heart and tried to be the prodigy that she painted me out to be.

But what she forgot to forewarn me of is that every human inevitably has to fail.

Everybody screws up, that is just part of life. But when you are told from a very young age that you are special and above average, failure simply does not seem like an option for you. Any grade that is not a hundred makes you feel like you should be doing more. Any question that you might have should be left unsaid because it is expected of you to understand everything at a faster rate than everyone else. This mentality of expecting for yourself to be better than you actually are makes you spiral quickly into failure.

And when you fail, it feels like you are doing more than just failing yourself. You feel like you have let down your parents, your teachers, and your peers. It’s a harsh fall from superiority to realizing that nothing about you makes you any more special than anybody else. And while it does help you gain perspective about life that every person has something that makes them special in some way, it can still hurt you greatly.

The transition from knowing that you are something special to realizing that you are nothing has caused for an increased spike in teenage depression in the past few years. This flawed system of dividing kids at a young age due to their academic performance has created an environment that builds stress for children on both sides of the spectrum.

Why was there never a lesson where the teacher explained that every person has the capability to be extraordinary, and that academics is not the most important aspect of one’s personality? When will we not feel confined to the labels we were given at a young age?

Being a child prodigy was not easy, especially now that I am an average student at best. But being on the opposite side of the spectrum was not easy for those students either. I get aggravated with myself for not living up to everyone else’s expectations, but I know on the other side that the ones who were labelled as below-average are proud of themselves for not confining themselves to the expectations they had years ago.

I believe that this means that, overall, we should not define ourselves to others expectations. Part of growing up is realizing that you’re going to mess up, but also that sometimes you will succeed. How you performed on a standardized test in first grade does not define the person that you are now, and it shouldn’t.

The only thing that should define who you are is yourself.

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An Honest Letter for High School Seniors

As May quickly approaches and the life that you were so familiar with is coming to an end, you can’t help but to ask yourself: what now?

As May quickly approaches and the reality of the fact that the life that you have lived for the last thirteen years is about to end, you can’t help but to worry.
For the majority of your life, you have been told how to feel, how to dress, what to eat, and even when to use the bathroom. You were discouraged from being too expressive, and might have even gotten in trouble for trying to make decisions for yourself. The schooling system is extremely robotic and honestly exhausting, but you cannot help but to feel a crushing wave of fear once you realize that in a few short months you will be released to the world and nobody will be there to control your every move. The prospect of this freedom can seem both daunting and exhilarating.
For the first time in your life, you can get in a car and drive away for hours if you desire to.
For the first time in your life, you can do ‘adult’ things like buying a house, getting married, and having children without having society judge you for it.
For the first time in your life, you get to choose.
And I know people might act like the only option for you after high school is college. Or they might act like you should immediately enter the workforce. Or they might even tell you that you should get married and start a family because you won’t stay young forever. And any of those things are completely valid options and you should consider everything that interests you, but the most important thing that you can do during this time of your life is to do what makes you happy.
I know that you are scared, that you feel like the choices you make at this very moment can determine your entire future. I know that you might feel that you should be doing one thing to make those around you happy even though something else might draw to you more. I know that you are worried about losing the friendships that you have had for years.
And, here’s a secret that nobody likes to tell us. It is absolutely okay to be scared.
Do you think that our parents knew exactly what they were going to do for the rest of their life when they were seventeen years old? Do you think that your grandparents knew that they would one day spending most of their retirement scrolling through Facebook? Do you think that ANYBODY is 100% certain in the decisions that they make?
Of course not!
We are humans. We make mistakes. We do not know the answer to everything. And I know sometimes it might feel like everybody else around you has their life perfectly planned out, but I promise it is not.
Life is a fluid thing. You might think that you are destined to be a teacher in a middle school right now, but when you go to college and you could realize that you despise education classes. Or you might think that you want to immediately go into the workforce, and find yourself six months later googling online classes to be an engineer. Everything can change in the blink of an eye because nothing is ever set in stone. You can be the happiest you ever been on one day and then experiencing your biggest heartbreak the next.
Not many things are in our control, and that just becomes more evident when you graduate high school and are no longer taking part of a daily routine. But the most vital thing that is in your control is your freedom of choice.
Don’t let the people around you make your decisions in life for you. Look inside your heart, find what makes you feel excited, and chase after that.
Are you going to screw up as you navigate through your life? Of course. Everybody does. Are you going to experience moments where you feel like you are lost and alone? Sadly, yes. But those moments are what makes the times when you’re smiling so hard that you feel like your cheeks are going to break so much more worth it.
I know it can be scary to have this era of your life end, but you need to remember that this is not the end of your life. This is simply just the start of your next chapter.

Welcome to the Real World

Do you have zero idea about what to do with your life? Do you feel like you are letting everyone that you care about down?

Welcome to the real world.

For essentially the first two decades of our lives, we are controlled.

Every thought we have, every meal we eat, every choice we make, hell, every time that we use the bathroom was closely monitored by the adults in our lives. We are told to be independent and strive for greatness, but in the same breath we are reminded that if we break any of the thousands of norms that society has established for us, we fail at life. Everyone from our parents to our peers to our teachers are molding us into this codependent human being that feels trepidation before making any type of decision alone. And if we try to break free and make decisions for ourselves that aren’t traditional, we are immediately berated and forced back into the confines of society.

And we don’t complain, because the confines are the only thing that we know.

Until we reach the magic age of eighteen and everything suddenly transforms into a menacing world of self-sufficiency and major life-changing decisions. It is like as soon as you finish your high school degree, everyone thinks that you should automatically have life completely figured out. You are expected to know which college you want to go to, what major you will have, what career you will do for the rest of your life, where you’re going to live, what person you’re going to marry, how many kids you’ll want, if you will live in the suburbs or in the country, and how to file taxes when just a few months ago your school would not even trust you to go to the bathroom by yourself. How does society not see a flaw in this?

We are forced into being codependent, mindless beings for most of our lives and then the next day we are expected to make some of the biggest decisions that we will ever make. And if you express that you are confused or scared, you get berated because “You’re an adult now. You should just know.

But how can we know?

It’s not like our high school systems devote that much time to helping students actually preparing for the real world. We weren’t given courses like “Intro to Tax Forms for Dummies” or “How to Not Drown in Student Debt.” Instead, we spent years of our lives memorizing information to regurgitate back onto the standardized tests that (SPOILER ALERT) actually demonstrate very little of the actual knowledge that we hold and will never be applicable to life outside of the classroom.

And I’m not saying that we should attack teachers for how horribly underprepared we are for life. The teachers want to teach us valuable information and wish that they could break away from the rigid goals of the standardized tests. The problem is not the teachers. It’s the people who think that distinguished test scores are more important than fostering young minds to find passions and gain knowledge that will actually make them grow as a person. It’s the people who get angry at students when they try to express individuality and then later on get upset when the same student tells them that they can’t decide what they’re passionate about.

Students are being dehumanized into walking test scores, and not only is it damaging to our minds. But it sets us so far behind when the real world shoves it’s unrelenting presence in our faces. Students that excelled in school find themselves struggling when success is no longer a game of having a stellar memory. The students who fell behind are entering the world discouraged because they’ve spent their whole life hearing that they are simply just not good enough.

When you are already broken down mentally, it is hard to make massive decisions for yourself. And it is even worse to confess to others that you don’t know what you will ever be able to do with your life because you don’t want to fail at being an adult before you have even got started.

But, there’s a bright side to this. If you’re a young adult finding yourself in a similar position to the one that I’m describing, know that you’re not alone. Seriously.

Nobody has a clue about what to do with their lives.

The girl from your high school who has always been so sure about being an Engineer is probably having a mental breakdown and deciding to be an artist instead. The boy who you always just knew would become a lawyer is probably talking on the phone with his mother right now telling her that he wants to go into journalism instead. And your best friend that is currently a biology major? Be sure to motivate her when she starts crying and tells you that she definitely cannot complete the Gen Eds, let alone actually get a degree to be a doctor. We are all going to change our minds at least a million times about the direction that our lives will go. And when we think we have it figured out, it’ll probably change again because life is funny like that.

I know that this sucks right now. That the construction of the school system and society itself seriously needs to be fixed and that it can be seriously discouraging to feel like you can’t answer any of the thousands of questions being hurled your way. But just know that you are not alone in feeling about the world’s biggest idiot and that everyone is going to mess up. Welcome to the real world.

Let’s mess everything up together.