How It Feels To Be Competitive Me

April 3, 2012
I am competitive but I provide no excuses except for the fact that I am the only Asian in the entire class who is not competitively aggressive and simply wants to obtain rank number one.

I remember the first day that my competitiveness was forced to come to light. Up until my ninth year of schooling, I had lived in the sheltered world of elementary and middle school, where everyone was the same ranking and AP classes didn’t make you better than anyone else. The only competitive people I knew were in competitions, and these were usually in passing, only consuming several Saturdays of my school life. The most competitive were anomalies. We ostracized them for being overly adamant about winning awards, and had as much fun making fun of them as they did winning trophies. I took a front seat in these childish politics, socializing with these people, even though they had entirely outclassed me during the competition, due to my apathy and lack of excitement for the contest of others. I would say something along the lines of “How-does-it-feel-to-be-a-nerd?” and we would exchange banter. I was probably the best at heckling such students, and several correctional facilities across the state probably took notice.

My only difference between these students was that they had a fake, plastic piece of imitation gold and I didn’t. They liked to retort by pointing out my apparent lack of intelligence compared to theirs, and wanted to see me compete more just so that they could beat me. This seemed strange for me, as I believed that they were the ones in the loss for competing and winning, strangely enough. I was their punching bag, and they were mine, for the better part of my competitions preceding high school.

When I turned fourteen, things changed when I was sent to high school. I left the sanctuaries of middle school, and when I walked into my first period class that fateful morning, I had left behind my previous self. I had crossed the Rubicon. I had become one of the pawns in the chess game of class ranks, GPA, test scores, and most especially, competition.

But I am not aggressively ruthless in competition. There is no hatred built up in my heart, following those years in middle school. I am not part of the ridiculously competitive students who feel entitled to smite other students, simply because they are trying to win. Even in all the conflict in the world and my life, I have noticed that trying to belittle others only leads to more conflict. I don’t try to destroy others - I am too busy attempting to exceed them.

Someone is always reminding me that I am the top of the class. I fail to completely register this, as I am at the same level as any other student; we complete the same assignments, sit in the same classroom, and eat the same lunch. It fails to invoke a sense of pride and elitism in me. Being the top of the class is a matter of the future, and the struggle to get accepted into a university will follow in the future. I cannot stop here, in the middle of my endeavors, to bask in the light of having the lowest possible number next to the blank that says Class Rank. I am off to a good start, but now is not the time to reflect. Competitiveness is such a consequence, and it has brought me a chance to achieve something greater, much more than it has with my peers. The entire school is watching, and my competitiveness is allowing me to perform on such a stage.

The ordeal of many other students is much more difficult. No doubt lurks in the back of my mind of whether I will succeed or not in life, for my competitiveness will always pull me through. No lack of confidence in my ability to perform under pressure ever creeps into my mind, the night before a competition. Attaining competitiveness is a much steeper slope to conquer than maintaining it.
I sometimes feel I am the same as my peers. Even to this day, the shadows of my middle school life creeps back to me, forcing me to criticize those who do well in competition, but I feel most competitive when I am against those who do not compete.
Among the thousands of students at our school, I am one of the few who holds a trophy; I represent the school to principals, and faculty members. I am the sharp contrast among students who simply could not care less, and when they seem to overwhelm me at the darkest hour, I find myself again at a competition of some sorts.

Sometimes, other competitors like myself find amongst ourselves a student who simply cannot perform for the audience. The contrast is just as sharp. On Saturday mornings when I find myself sitting at another school, this person arrives and we are seated into our competition rooms. As the tests are administered, my heart begins to beat, my brain begins to race from corner to corner of my vault of memory, reviewing every possible case, every possible formula and possibility. The experience is exhilarating, and as the competition reaches the climax, I find myself scratching violently at my paper, calculating, considering, and most definitely competing. I feel on top of the world as I receive my trophy, conquering my opponents in a legitimate and fair manner. The day ends, and my teammates and myself rest our minds for another battle. I observe the other students, who did not do as well, and they comment on the day’s events. “I did pretty decently”, they say, and I know that they did not have the same experience as did I; they are as far from competitive as I was myself in middle school, and to think that I used to believe that people like myself were in the wrong.

Yet, at certain moments, I am surrounded by my peers, and I become someone entirely different. In rare moments at these competitions, at Coral Glades High School or Pompano Beach High School, I am a droplet in a sea of brilliant minds, much more so than myself. I am no longer competitive, and I am humbled by their presence.

Sometimes, people like my former self enjoy discriminating and poking fun at people who are as competitive as I, but I am not angered or offended, I am simply confused. Why would anyone deny themselves the right to a much better, richer education that comes in the form of competition? Who, in the right mind, would not want to understand why the things are the way they are, the world around us, or the universe? It seems foreign to me.

But in the end, I am just another student. In the end, when admissions officers look into my application, they will only see what they have seen one thousand times before, a student who enjoys competition. I feel as though I am in a crowd of thousands of cartons of eggs, or bags of chips, or fruit products, waiting to be selected from the shelf of thousands of other products. When I apply to college, I am placed on a shelf next to thousands of other applicants, all who are just as ripe or have just as many chips as I do, and can be interchanged as quickly. In the shopping cart is a pool of students, just as qualified as I am, just as competitive. A few extra competitions will not matter, just as a few extra seeds or chips would not matter. But maybe, that is what college admissions officers are looking for, a wide selection of phenomenal students to choose from – who knows?

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