Since 4th grade when they started giving us letter grades, I’ve always been the typical “A” student. The nerd who actually likes school, who hated missing it to be in the hospital, and who maintained that image until high school when I got one little B in chemistry that I will never forget. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about myself….I’ve learned that as much as I was a nerd and enjoyed learning and doing the best, that this really isn’t what matters. Despite that little “B,” I got into college, and probably would have with a lot more B’s on my transcript. To top it off, I don’t remember half the things I did to get those grades, nor have I ever had to use that knowledge in any sort of life or death situation (besides the occasional Jeopardy question).
So why did it matter so much? Maybe it was the thrill of a challenge, the humble satisfaction of knowing you accomplished something… not to mention all of the scholarships I got because of it. But at some point between freshman year and now I started to realize that grades are but small indications of a truly fulfilling, successful life. I still remember getting a C or something on a paper in 7th grade, crying very real tears about it, and my mom saying… “In 5 years this isn’t going to matter.” I of course, didn’t understand what she meant until way later when despite that C I graduated high school, made it to college, and unless I really screw up royally between now and May… will most likely graduate with honors.
There are a limited number (if any) real grades in the real world. Yet, as college students, as college SENIORS who are months away from the real world, why are we so focused on a little letter? Why must grades dictate our success? While my peers stress over midterms and papers, I tend to take a lax approach, doing what I can, not sacrificing fun for school work, and getting by with an acceptable and rather high GPA that I am always proud of. I have begun to understand that stress over school work isn’t necessary and most of what you need is confidence in yourself if you want to do well in life.
2 weekends ago I was studying for [what turned out to be] one of my hardest tests (but which I was very “lax” about as usual). And it just so happened to be alumni weekend. Some of my alumni friends came traipsing into the library and proceeded to reprimand me for sitting in the library on a beautiful saturday afternoon studying. “It doesn’t matter!” they told me. Knowing full well where these friends were coming from, I still tried to study but slowly lost steam throughout the week as my test got closer and closer. I convinced myself that I knew enough to get by and spent more time doing unproductive things then memorizing and figuring out the principles of healthcare economics.
And then today was one of my proudest moments…. I got a 62 on my midterm. Now, in no way was I “proud” of the fact that I totally slacked off in studying and could have done a lot better. No, I was proud of my reaction to it… a D grade would have sent me spiraling downward into depression in my “A” student days… but my reaction to this grade was “Oh well, it won’t effect much. I’ll do better next time” I’m proud of the fact that I have finally learned what really matters and what really affects a life. One little number will probably not affect whether or not I get a job, will not prevent me from graduating, and will at the very least, teach me a lesson that I probably should at least put a teeny bit more effort in than I did. Thankfully, the professor scaled the test so I got away with a C, and many other students were in the same position as me. So it wasn’t a complete bust. But I think its a major defining moment in my senior year. I’ve finally come to terms that being my best isn’t about getting the best grades, it’s about following my dreams, moving through obstacles, and striving towards a goal that will make me happy.
Yes, graduating college is a necessity if I want to fulfill some of my goals… but it doesn’t help to stress out about whether or not I will get an “A” on every single assignment, test, and paper. College is also about figuring out yourself, it’s about the lasting friendships, the care-free time to be young and enjoy life, and most importantly, its about figuring out what’s important to you, what makes your heart race, what your passions are. I’m not suggesting that as seniors we all start failing all of our classes (though it would be nice to have another semester at this awesome place), but I’m suggesting that we stop the stress! Stop worrying about these grades that, like my Mom said, won’t matter in 5 years. In the end, as long as you put in a little bit of effort and have the right intentions, everything works out for the best.
I think too often we strive for perfection, yet being imperfect and making mistakes is one of the most beautiful things about being human. I think perfection is recognizing that we are not perfect and that we can’t please everyone, not even our own ourselves. To my senior year friends, I hope we can have the best senior year without the stress of those unnecessary stressors that we will feel silly about once we finally make it in the real world. To the rest of the world, every once and a while, forgive yourself for being imperfect, for making mistakes. Instead, go against the grain every once and a while and stop beating yourself up over not meeting everyone’s expectations. And then, learn what it is that is truly important and figure out what you need to do to work towards the important stuff.