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What a Failure Can Do
The room was sumptuous and loud with the sound of my peers chattering all around me. Yet in my mind, the room was deathly silent; all I could hear was the voice speaking over the intercom. I clung onto his every word. I was waiting to hear it; I was waiting to find out whether or not he would say my name; waiting to find out if another year's worth of work and dedication would slip from my fingers once more.
September 3, 2008, the start of 10th grade; the start of a class that would change my perspective on the definition of true drive and desire. Prior to this year, I floated through high school with a primary focus on friendships and passing as proficient in my classes. However, AP World History changed my entire perspective on high school and my ability to seize the opportunities for my future and transform them into one of great promise. It was dangerous, unexplored territory; though I had taken an AP course prior to this, it was nowhere near the expectations in the level of difficulty and demands for endurance of this one.
I grew up as a first generation Chinese-American in a household in which education and good grades were held in high esteem; however, my parents' lack of knowledge on collegiate requirements left the responsibilities of success on my shoulders. The course took me as an honors student in the top 10% of the school, yet it crushed my confidence upon the first test. My score was penurious; no less the result of lax study habits that resulted in my having no idea what to study. I came to the realization that I had absolutely no idea how to succeed in this class, not to mention how to even keep my head above water.
Over the next few months, I treaded vigorously in the tumultuous waters of world history, as I stayed in every day after class into lunch to go over that day's lecture and the definition and significance of the assigned terms. Never before had I been forced to devote so much of my time into a course in attempts to succeed. I spent hours each day reading the assigned 15 pages and taking copious notes, filling my mind with the histories of various ancient cultures. Time spent with friends declined from a daily ritual to a trickle, until finally, I spent little to no time with them at all. My days were consumed with historical studies. I could be deterred by nothing else; my mind was focused indisputably on the task of conquering each unit exam. One could say I no longer had a life outside of 5th period, it consumed me in both voluntary and involuntary ways. I loved what I had devoted myself to; the intellectual stimulation and boosts to my self-confidence after each test- that is, along with the preceding near-anxiety attacks from thoughts of prospective failure- made it all worth while. Thus, after I discovered that there were department awards given to the top student in every academic subject, my drive morphed from what was a desire for success and knowledge, into a desire of irrepressible proportions. I wanted that award more than anything else; I knew that my devotion and work ethic superseded any of my peers.
One day, Mrs. Garvin announced to the class that she had to choose who she would give the History Department Award. She stated that we had all worked extremely hard and this decision was not an easy one. However, she had always gone by the numbers in determining awards such as these, and because the deadline did not allow her to enter in our last assignments so as to determine our true standing, some of us who may have been well-deserving will not receive the award. It's funny that when I was listening to her explanations, I had not realized that she as speaking directly to me.
So when the news came that the award would not be given to me, but instead to a close friend of mine, I almost could not believe it. I spent the day of the Awards Assembly in denial; I tried to ignore the fact that, not me, but my friend, had received a pass excusing her to assembly preparations, I brushed aside the lack of requests for my presence at the assembly, and when the time came, I made my way into the gym, still waiting for an ASB member to cry out in their forgetfulness and pull me into the line-up of award-winners. But when the time came for me to stand amongst my classmates in the stands, I looked down at those students who had been given their respective department awards, and I knew I could no longer deny myself this fact: I indeed had not received the award, and there was nothing I could do about it.
The disappointment from this inevitable realization numbed me for days. How is it that though I had done everything right, I was still deemed unworthy of the award? This question racked my mind constantly, yet unlike the other problems I have had in school, I could not find the answer. My mental and emotional state remained staunchly resolute until the day I attended the AP U.S. History informational meeting. It was then that I realized that I had to force myself out of this state of negative wondering and grab hold of my future. The only way to change was to take control and seize the future, as there was nothing I could do to rewrite my feelings of the past.
From that point on, I felt resurrected. Once again I was sumptuous with drive to succeed and come out on top, to mitigate the feelings of helplessness and self-doubt by replacing pessimistic questioning with solid decisions to up my game. Over the course of the subsequent year, my mindset was focused on one task only: to succeed. What I could not do about the past, I would do to the future. I dedicated myself wholly to my AP courses, with an emphasis on attaining the Department Award for History. I spent hours each night reading numerous pages on presidential failings and achievements, the passing of amendments, and the outcomes of various acts and provisions. I became literate in our nation’s history, despite previous claims to not caring about the dealings of America’s white-haired, pony-tailed ancestors. I readily participated in class, asked questions, gave my knowledge and opinions, wrote extra DBQ and FRQ essays to improve my scores, composed meticulously thorough answers to each unit’s terms and essay questions, and wrote a profuse amount of notes that filled two notebooks by the conclusion of the year. But most importantly, I talked to the teacher and made it known to him how much I wanted the department award. I expressed how much the award had meant to me in the previous year and how losing it had culminated my drive and conviction to achieve this year. I did all of these things because I translated my disappointment into determination, because I made myself a promise that I would not let my goal slip again this year.
There I was, sitting on the cold, hard plastic chairs in 2nd period, I held a collected, austere composure in attempts to conceal my true emotions. But my insides foreshadowed an unleashing of pandemonium. My composure was threatening to split and divulge the near desperation and anxiety within me. My state of well-being was dependent on the voice’s revelation; I was waiting to hear who the voice on the intercom would name as the award recipient.
“Department of Science Award… Eric H.!” My pupils dilated, my airway constricted, I felt my heart stop and my stomach fall to the floor. “Department of History Award… Jessica W.!”
I got it… I got it… It’s mine! A smile broke out on my face, shattering my abstemious veneer. Feelings of elation overwhelmed me in my silent jubilance; no others surrounding me noticed the esoteric triumph I had just experienced. In the face of the most tantalizing obstacle I had stood before thus far, I had succeeded. My long-awaited moment of recognition made my two years of unwavering perseverance all worthwhile. In this instance, I found myself; I realized what of person I am and the lengths I will go to in order to achieve my goals. This point marked not an end to my academic journey, but simply a milestone in my achievements that would further sustain my aspirations to surmount each and every obstacle that comes my way.