is what I’ll think every time I look at my college transcript. The difference between being perfect and less than, invariably haunts me every time my grades roll around. The end of the semester is hard, especially when you worked damn harder than most people to fall just short of fulfilling a dream.
A dream that is getting all A’s.
I’m not perfect. No one is.
But my grades make me feel inadequate.
My psychologist told me to reframe the way I view my self worth. I know I shouldn’t measure my success on a 4.0 scale, but how could I not? My peers do. Society does. Medical schools do.
I grew up thinking I would never get all A’s in school. Last semester I defied my own beliefs and this semester I fell short of that. How am I supposed to compete with getting a 4.0 last semester? I made it a goal to match those grades but I lost by 2 points. Two points will define the difference between feeling good and feeling great.
I received an AB in my Population and Community Ecology course. For those of you that don’t know, the difference between an A and an AB is stark. My overall percentage was a 91.2% but students with that same grade received as low as an 88%. What makes my 91.2% different than the 88%? It could’ve been one assignment, maybe a lower test grade, but when I look back as reflect on what I could’ve done differently? I’m not sure what I could’ve done and that frustrates me.
I received an 81 on my first exam and an 83 on my second. I got a 100 on my NSF proposal (a huge portion of the overall grade), and pretty decent grades on every other homework assignment. I never missed a class, I take very detailed notes during lecture, and always participated in lecture discussions. What did I do wrong?
The fact that I am sitting here writing this post is because I am frustrated and I do not know how to heal. Maybe you think I am pretentious for writing this because let me tell you: most, if not all people would be happy with an AB. Yet, most people wouldn’t have to work this hard to get the grades they want. I wasn’t gifted. I am not naturally smart. I work hard to understand material and I frequently fall short. I am okay with failure because that is how I learn my best lessons. Except this wasn’t a failure. I still got a decent grade. It just wasn’t the grade I hoped for.
Why might this semester be the epitome of a journey that is myself? Well, right now I do not know what it takes to become the person I want to be. I feel lost. I feel frustrated. I feel sad.
Why won’t I be happy with my AB? I just don’t know. I’ve rarely feel good enough to achieve my dreams of becoming a surgeon and I struggle with this every day. I battle each time I wake up and look in the mirror. I will always be hard on myself, that is just the way I am. I will never feel good enough, even if you tell me I am. I am working on it. I am trying to meter the window of my self’s worth against a harsh educational system and trust me, the only individual I am competing with right now is myself.
Our educational system is tough. I am not sure if professors understand the intense pressure that we students feel to be perfect. The only person I will blame is myself. It’s not my professor’s fault that I received this grade. I am the only one who had the power to make a change. Sometimes those changes can’t happen. It’s scary putting yourself out there in a vulnerable way. Students are vulnerable and subject to this harsh educational environment every day. I know I am not the only one who feels this way when grades roll around, but I feel isolated in this moment. My sister scoffed at me when I told her I didn’t get a 4.0 this semester. My roommate raised an eyebrow. My parents are still proud of me.
Yet, I have grown up with a tough inner critique and it speaks loudly today.