For most of my academic experiences I have been described as being a “model student.” I spent so much of my time trying to fit into what I thought the mold for a model student was: things I mainly based on academic reports and less on extracurriculars, that I didn’t spend enough time going after personal goals. This isn’t to say that I regret how I spent these last few years or that I didn’t cherish them. I’m truly grateful for all I have accomplished thanks to the amazing people in my life who have continuously supported me. I just wish that I knew then how truly precious those years were and that labels you associate yourself with should not feel like something you are trapped in.
I have always been told I can be a high-achieving kid, which is something I can humbly agree with, being determined and driven were things that I have drilled into my head for so long. Over time I began to prioritize my academics over most things. Staying up until 12 am became a horrible habit for my 5th-6th grade self, partly because I had a problem with perfectionism and partly because I had horrible time management. I said before that I can be a very determined and ambitious person, so when teachers and peers started to put me into this label of a “gifted kid” I saw it as a rise in expectations that I had to meet (which I always tried my best to do) so I could keep people around me proud. Slowly with that, came the expectations from everyone around me that I would always achieve my goals. I felt like I was being judged on a different scale than everyone else, like other people were allowed to make mistakes, like my accomplishments were no longer being celebrated but tolerated. My fear of failure and trying new things became more intense. I knew some of my peers who also felt the same way I did so I assumed that it was a general circumstance that everyone could relate too. I didn’t understand what a negative mindset it was until I had time to reflect on it. I wish I had someone to tell me then that although facing challenges and criticism is difficult you shouldn’t obsess over it and instead learn to grow from those hardships.
The pandemic, as I’m sure it did for many, gave me time to reflect on what my priorities were and how I had been using my time so far. I realized that outside of reading I didn’t know what my own interests were, because I never made the time to find out, I always assumed there’d be a chance in my future. That time had come but I couldn’t do anything because my “two week school vacation” had shut everything down. So now I had all this time on my hands but I couldn’t do anything with it and I felt restless. If I had known then how measured my time was I would’ve used it to try things I wanted to in the moment and not postpone it because I assumed I’d always have the opportunity. Once I realized this I saw how unrealistic and damaging my previous mindset was I began to use every opportunity I saw to branch out as a person. I took some swimming lessons and found how much I loved being in the water and how relaxing I found it.
One thing I want to get across to you is that regret will always exist. There will be times you may feel disappointed in a decision you made because of a lack of judgment and times you will wish you’d known more information. There are many things I wish I could tell my younger self. One of those things is to find a way to balance my time between schoolwork and finding my own personal interests because I never know what’s going to happen next. Another is that if you feel like you are being associated with a label that makes you feel cornered or causes more stress than it does happiness then it is not something you want. I am proud of all of you who are currently reading this and I will count myself lucky if you got some advice out of this that stays with you in the future.
De La Salle Institute – DMSF Class of 2022
Photo By Jon Anders Wiken on Adobe Stock