On Senioritis and Self-Esteem

After getting my decision to Barnard, Dad told me to stop studying “so hard” for my IB exams.  I have absolutely no idea what that means.

“Just relax,” he said.  “And go do other things.  Just don’t spend five or six hours studying Chemistry or writing History essays.  Forget maintaining your average, just do your best.”  Funny, because just a few months ago he was telling me to consistently study Chemistry and write History essays in order to maintain my average.  I mean, what?

Of course, I understand that these offers to American colleges are technically unconditional (i.e. contingent on graduating high school and whatnot).  In other words, I shouldn’t be as stressed out as the other 80% of my classmates who have gotten pretty good conditional offers from universities in both the UK and Hong Kong.  But for me, the unconditional offer is still conditional, but it’s not whether or not I will eventually go to Barnard because at this point, that’s guaranteed.

The condition is my self-esteem.

See, at a young age, I’ve been told that I’m not hardworking.  “You’re not hardworking enough.”  “Why are you so lazy?  You have to work harder!”  “Look at A, B, and C.  They get good grades because they work hard, so they will be successful in the future, unlike you.”  These were actually the words of my teachers, from both their own mouths and on my homework.  It was heartbreaking to know that no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be good enough academically.  I know that’s not how the real world works, but that was how it functioned in my school as a child.  The mentality stuck.

And therefore, when I didn’t do well at school, I would be chastised that I wasn’t hardworking.  It only drove me to work for a couple of hours every day, insofar as a security guard told me to leave the classroom at the apparently late 6PM.  If Dad could study about 8 hours a day before, during and after law school, why would he stop me?

I’m afraid of getting senioritis.  I don’t want to go back to those days when I “wasn’t hardworking,” so I would work six hours a day to convince myself that I can actually maintain my average just by working hard enough, and then go for a dance lesson or read a book for about two hours just to release that stress.  There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?  I get what Dad means when he says that I already have a college to go to, but why would he said that there’s “no point” in maintaining the average I spent 1.5 years trying to reach, when that was all he supported me in doing starting October 2013?  “It was for your college applications; now it’s over.”  No it’s not, because I am aware that when I tell myself to not study even for a few minutes, I will be overwhelmed with guilt.  There is just this one thing called “expectations,” and it’s hard to believe how many people have that for not only me, but also just about everyone else I know.

The point is that I can’t seem to tell myself that these things don’t matter anymore and that there’s so much more ahead of me.  I could be picking up French like how I wanted to; I could be reading 20 pages of Infinite Jest everyday instead of my daily 10; I could be going for dance classes three times a week; I could be finally working on that screenplay I’ve wanted to write for years.  But I just feel like sacrificing my studying to do the things that I could maybe do starting mid-May would ruin my potential to actually do well for once.  I’ve finally had enough confidence to probably walk into the exam room thinking, “I can do this.”  I’ve finally had the potential to produce something academically pleasing.  I’ve finally had the chance to redeem myself before I walk that new road to college.

And now I’m being told to stop.

Dad, when you say that you won’t care how badly I do for the IB, you know deep down that you’re lying.  I already broke your heart countless times with eight consecutive years of abysmal report cards, and a few that are only slightly mediocre by your standards.  Why are you telling me to stop? I know that you’re proud that I got into Barnard, and I respect and thank you for that; I just want you to have something else to be proud about to make up for the failure everyone said I was.

I just need one more comeback.  Is it really that bad?

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8 thoughts on “On Senioritis and Self-Esteem

  1. At the end of the day, it’s your life. If getting great grades on the IB is important to you, go for it! I think your father mostly is concerned that you might be pushing yourself to succeed because of your parents’ earlier pressure on you to study hard and he wants to reassure you that he is still going to love you if you barely pass the IB exams.

    That said, associating grades with self-worth isn’t exactly healthy. Been there, done that, I still feel as though if I’m not academically successful, I’m worthless as a person. It causes problems.

  2. Man seeks fullfilment. And in you fullfiment is sought from the reaps of the laboured sowing you did. Go and follow what fullfils, the moment you leave the havens of school and regrets, thats when its too late

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