Don’t start crying in seminar. Don’t be that girl.
That bright blue “B” stares at me, mocking, taunting, laughing at me. All because of one stupid test.
My fingers instinctively click on my go-to-groupchat labeled “nutterfly pations white tease” – some inside joke I barely remember – and I start typing: “I have a B in AP Physics . . . my grade dropped like 10 percent.
“OK don’t come in here with your fake problems Alex.”
My heart sinks.
Fake problems. I’m sitting here, near tears in the middle of a classroom, but my problems aren’t real? Why doesn’t this matter as much as a new-found love of Biggie Smalls or whether or not so-and-so’s new boyfriend used to be a jerk –
And the conversation moves on.
I know that this B barely compares to what my friends have gone through – I don’t have parents who say, “Are you really going to eat that?”, I’m not on anti-depressants that don’t work, I don’t hide in the bathroom for an hour because I’m too scared to present in my English class.
I don’t have the same problems as my friends. But still, that doesn’t mean mine aren’t valid.
I’ve never been the pretty one, the funny one or the talented one. I’ve always just been the “smart one.” I never hear “that guy is checking you out,” or “you made me laugh so hard I cried” or “you’re so good at everything.” Instead, I’ve heard “Of course you got an A,” “Will you help me with my math homework?” and “I can’t believe you did so well on that essay.”
But getting good grades always came easily to me. As classes got harder and work became more rigorous, I learned to adapt and work harder, because, no matter what, I couldn’t let go of the pressure of being the “smart one.” I’ve never been able to drop that identity.
And that’s fine. I don’t need anything else to have self esteem, because I have my smarts. I have an unbeatable work ethic. So when I start to question what defines so much of my identity, my entire reality shifts. If I don’t have this persona to rely on, then who am I?
I get why my problems can seem fake. When I’m complaining about an 80 percent on a test to someone who barely has an 80 in the same class, the complaint seems illegitimate.
If it’s not something you consider a problem, it’s so easy to dismiss it as irrelevant. When I listen to a dancer complain about falling out of triple pirouette, all I can think is God, I wish I could do a double. When I hear a runner talk about how their mile gained a minute the only thought running through my head is I wish I could run one mile. And when I hear a theatre kid upset about getting a supporting role: You don’t know how good you have it.
And that’s not fair to anyone. We get so wrapped up in our own issues that we forget that other people are having different experiences and concerns that are just as valid as our own. We all need to try to be a little more sympathetic toward one another, because I have something to tell you that I’m only just coming to realize myself:
Fake problems don’t exist.
My panic when my grade drops to a B is real to me, as are the problems my friends have had that I have dismissed in the past. So I think it’s about time that we all put in a little more effort to respect everyone’s problems, even if they seem silly to us. Because the problem that seems insignificant might be the biggest problem they’ve ever had, and they just need someone to help them through it.
That dancer is going to be upset about falling out of her turn until she nails it – and I know I’m going to be upset until that 80 becomes a 90 and that “B” disappears.