“What are you going to be when you grow up?” the teacher asks in first grade. “What are going to do with your life?” the counselor asks freshman year. “What college are you going to go to?” my parents ask weekly.
I can’t decide. I can’t win. I have to be the best, work the hardest, and not make a single mistake. I must take difficult classes, and I must get Apis. I have a B in calculus, which is unacceptable, even though it is one of the best grades in the class.
“How’s football going?” I am asked too frequently.
It’s not as though it matters. All anyone really cares is if I can put it on my college application. I am expected to perform better than anyone else. It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand. I’m supposed to be the smartest one in my class.
“Was track practice hard today?” is yet another oft-asked question. What does it matter how track went? If it went well, all I’m going to hear is “Well, good.” If it didn’t (which is usually the case), I’ll hear “It’ll get better.” It’s not like I can quit. “You have to finish what you start,” I’ve been told. Quitting doesn’t look good on applications.
“Did you turn in your job application yet?” As a matter of fact, I didn’t. I had to quit working because my schedule was filled with homework and football. I didn’t even like it, so why would I go back? They’re going bankrupt anyway. I have to have a job, though. It’s expected.
Earn all As, do well at sports, work, and ace the ACTs and SATs. That’s all that’s expected of me.
I feel like quitting. Ending it all. Making the pressure disappear like a magician. Escaping this prison. Running away? I’ve thought about it. What’s the worst that can happen, death? There are worse things than death, and there are other worlds than this. At the very least, I would get away from the people who expect so much out of me. Oops, I mean so little.
It isn’t so much that they expect, just perfection.
Death. I run distance for track. We run on roads. It’s in the country so it’s not too crowded. The other day I caught myself thinking about how easy it would be to take those few steps on the other side of the road and get flattened by the on-coming van. It shouldn’t be too painful. A van hits me at 60 miles per hour? I shouldn’t feel a thing.
What would it mean? No more questions from teachers, counselors and parents. No more getting laughed at by classmates because of my athletic performance. No more having people come up to me and boast about how they did better than I did on a physics test.
It would be a simple end. It would relieve those who hate me of having me around. It would stop my parents worrying about my getting into college and succeeding or failing in life.
So why don’t you do it? I ask myself.
The truth is, and the scary thing is, I don’t know. For some reason, I haven’t gone through with anything. It’s like I’m pulled by some force field that prevents me from acting on these thoughts.
Is it my friends? I doubt it, because I have so few. Is it divine intervention? It could be. Is it fear? This may be the best reason. Whatever it is, it is keeping me from it. So I go on, day by day, week by week, answering the unceasing questions of my various interrogators. I am in my dungeon, being beaten, forced to respond to questions for which I do not have the answers.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.