Better Than You Think

June 3, 2017

“Lia, your grades really matter this quarter if you want to get into a good high school.” My mom told me as I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

“I know, I know.” I replied walking out of the kitchen. I did understand how important it was to get good grades this year so I could get into the high schools that were going to get me into great colleges so I could have a successful future. My whole future was riding on these grades, so you could imagine the pressure I was feeling.

“Hey Lia, have you heard that people might have to repeat 7th grade math next year?” Gaby said walking up to me.

“Really, how?” My eyes widen.

“You pretty much have to have an average of at least a B+ in math to move up.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Some people would not move up to 8th grade math. That would be so embarrassing.
“But don't worry,” Gaby assured me, “You and I will both get in.”
I stared blankly at the board. Numbers floated around my head. The words left her mouth and went straight through my ears. It didn’t matter if I asked my teacher questions about what she was teaching. She would just say the same things she said before.
When I got my test back, my heart jumped out of my chest. I had never ever gotten a grade so horrific. I thought I was pretty good at math. Now, I didn’t know anymore. I remembered that we had to get good grades to get into algebra. Chills ran down my spine. What if this one test prevented me from getting into algebra? It would basically be getting held back a grade. What would all of my friends think of me? “I guess Lia doesn’t care enough about her grades. I guess she isn’t that smart at all.” they would all say. I could just imagine the beginning of the end of my life. If I didn’t get into algebra, I would be a whole math grade behind! What if I could never catch up and I was be behind in math for my whole life? Everyone knew that math was one of the most important subjects for life. Why couldn’t this be art or stem? Anything other than math. I couldn’t believe that I could be this dumb. Everyone else in the 7th grade understood proportions, so why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I try harder? Why couldn’t I be better?
That evening I collapsed onto my bed and started chomping on ritz crackers. On the other side of the phone, my other friend Misora kept telling me everything was going to be okay. Somehow I blocked out her words and all I could hear were the words she would be thinking when I didn’t move up into 8th grade math. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. It all seemed so real. The life of being behind in math, just because of one unit. Someone’s future couldn’t depend on one math unit. I wasn’t only mad at myself, I was mad at my teacher and the school who created this system.
The day after break ended when I  walked into school, everyone was on their phones.
“Lia! The 8th grade schedules are out! Find out if you got into algebra or not!” Gaby shouted.
She headed into the chorus room while I quickly took out my phone to check if I got into algebra or not. As I was typing in my username and password my heart was punching my chest. All that studying for math tests and getting into colleges could be thrown away right then and there. I clicked on scheduling. 8th grade Algebra it said. The weight of all that stress was brushed off in those 30 seconds crouching in the hallway. I couldn’t believe how much I doubted myself. It turned out when the tests were averaged, that one really bad grade didn’t matter. After those few weeks of stress and craziness, I knew I would never get them back.

Stressing about something won’t do any good. Your best is all that you can do. I finally knew what that meant. After all those years of my parents and teachers telling me that, I knew what was going through their heads.

There is something that my guidance counselor always says: You are better than you think. The only opinions that matter are yours. The only words that should affect you are the ones that come from you. So you should start telling yourself words that will help you do better, not bring you down. 

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