Compassion This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   I am a straight-A student andhave been my whole life. When you come from a family of educators, that justseems a natural result.

With high academic standards come acompetitive spirit. I don't just dislike losing, I can't stand it. I need to beat the top, preferably in everything. I can remember crying over awards I didn'twin and 99's that should have been 100's. I've even gone so far as to definemyself by my grades, saying that they are who I am. If I don't get the grade Iexpect, then I'm lost.

Today I was sitting in class trying to get in somelast-minute studying for a test I just had to ace. When the girl behind mestarted talking, I tried to listen politely while still glancing at my studysheet every now and then, smiling and nodding and agreeing when I thoughtconversation required it. I found myself wishing she would be quiet so I couldstudy. After a while, she said, "You know, you're a really good listener.You're so easy to talk to."

I froze.

I replayed thecompliment in my head before smiling and ac-cepting it graciously. But inside, Icringed because I knew it wasn't true. She'd made every effort to have aconversation and I wasn't even trying to participate.

I passed the testwith flying colors despite my selfish worry of lost study time, but the one thingI needed to learn most wasn't on that test. I had let myself get so caught up inbeing the best student that I had failed at just being normal. So what matters tome most? I'm afraid I don't like my answers. They're all about my personalsuccess, about me being too self-centered to realize that the world doesn't needanother valedictorian. There can only be so many scholars, but there is neverenough sympathy. Cleverness goes only so far, but compassion lasts a lifetime. Iwant that to be what matters to me - compassion.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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