“This is really rough on me, but upperclassmen told me that if I didn’t do it, then one day I would regret it.”
Funny, I should’ve thought of those words a bit before I approached my Biology teacher in attempt of begging her to round my 88.9 to a 90. From a B to an A. From a 3.85 GPA to a 4.0.
When you say those words, in fact whenever you just mention the word “regret” at all to an adult, they get scared.
I had this whole speech planned out with what I was going to say.
“Beg. Sob story. Weep about other classes,” said a senior.
“Beg. Sob story. Weep about other classes,” echoed through my ears.
Well, at least I got the sob and weep part down.
Forget the entire speech I had planned on fairness and grades and compromises and promises and maybe a bit of blackmail (okay, maybe not that last part, I’m still a pure child I swear). The second I finished that sentence on regret, I was hiccupping through tears goddamnit.
“Ms. Sharma, I’m not a student to care about GPA. Ms. Sharma, I’m a kid who frankly hates a GPA. Ms. Sharma, peers come up to me to edit their essays and make study guides together and video call study at one in the morning. They wouldn’t believe I have the GPA I have. Because frankly, although I hate the system, I worship it—we all do. I hate that we all follow a system where a number out of four defines ourselves. I hate how an 80.1 is the same as an 89.9 within this four number system, and how an 89.9 is entirely different from a 90.1.
Ms. Sharma, you don’t understand the feeling of waking up at three/four AM this morning because of a sore throat and checking grades to see I failed your final, and dropped a letter grade in your class. You don’t understand the feeling of spending the weekend losing a debate tournament in Berkeley only to wake up sick to see continuous failure.”
“Ellen, you don’t understand the feeling of having such an intelligent student not succeed in my class. I know you’re brilliant. You can study for half an hour for a test that most students would have to study two or three hours for.”
“Ms. Sharma, if I studied for even half an hour more than I did for your final, my grade would not be what it is. Ms. Sharma, you do not know the pressure of having an 80.2 in math and staying up until three AM the night before to memorize literally every theorem in the book.
Ms. Sharma, you don’t understand that that night before you final, I had fallen asleep at my desk even after two mugs of black coffee because of how tired I was. I could document that night by the hour—picking myself up to crawl into bed at three AM after I shook awake coughing. Waking back up at four AM from countless alarms set one after another, knowing I would fall victim to the greatest waste of time known to a high school student: sleep. And then turning off my phone completely and just letting myself shut my eyes in an actual bed for the actual purpose of getting rest simply because I was Just. Too. Tired. And Just. Too. Cold.
Ms. Sharma, you don’t understand that I have nights of staying up until three AM to do work and study only to be followed by a day of coming home from school and sleeping until the next morning.”
“Ellen, I know you do all these things. I know you try to do everything and you want to do everything and you take things you cannot handle. And I know you are incredibly smart— But,”
“Ms. Sharma, if you know I am incredibly smart you know that that last final was a fluke. Most teachers typically drop a student’s worse test grade because they just understand that sometimes, students just have a bad time. Sometimes, students just have a bad day. Teachers understand that some times, students are just too tired; some mornings are Just. Too. Cold.”
“—But you’re still human. You may be capable of living off three hours of sleep every twenty four, and you may be able to study half an hour for a test most people have tos study three hours for. But you're still human.”
“That one last final dropped my grade by 4%, from a 92 to an 88. My test average has been an 86, and a 71 on your final is just not right. You know it, I know it. That final determines my GPA. My GPA defines me. Are you going to let a single fluke of a test define me?”
“I cannot change your grade. It’s okay, Ellen. But I can’t do anything. You can go to talk to the school counselor if you really need to.”
“Would the counselor change my grade, or my mindset, because my mindset is not changing anytime soon.
Ms. Sharma, forget about numbers and percentages and fairness. I just want you to empathize, I just want you to understand.”
“And you’re just yet still *throws my arms up and laughs* stand there and not do anything about it?”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry Ellen. I’m so sorry Ellen.”
I said okay into the atmosphere of the rest of the classroom. I don’t even know if I was screaming by then, I can’t hear myself, I can’t hear anything. The bell rings and I still get back to my seat and sit there and I cry into the sleeves of an oversized jacket that wasn’t even mine. And I weep and whimper and scream inside and out of my own body.
The truth is, I wasn’t even really crying that much over a simple little ninth grade bio grade. I mean, you know you f***ed up when your own teacher says the upside is you can write about your failure experience on college apps at least. You know you f***ed up when even your own mother [gives up and] tells you, “It’s okay.”
I was just so angry at myself. It was that one moment where all the stress compiled upon myself this entire school semester exploded.
Perks of being passive, I guess. Perks of growing up alongside a society where emotion is viewed as weakness, and the heartless win, I guess.
I got most upset because everything she said to me was true. If I studied for just even an hour more for that final exam, I would have an A in her class right now. What went wrong?
I hated myself. I hated that I could not get up that one last morning. I hated that I slept through precious hours of the night that I could have been studying. I hate that I could be so much more if I were just a bit tougher. I hated that sometimes IT. WAS. JUST. TOO. COLD. AND. I. WAS. JUST. TOO. TIRED. I hated that I cried. I hated that I was not strong enough to keep the alternate losing part of myself tied down until just right before the very end.
After all, tragedy is only considered tragedy at times of most vulnerability. All the wrong things happening at all the wrong times.
I hated that I had emotions and that I had feelings.
I hated that I let myself by human for once.
I hated the fact that I try so hard and I get so close to doing everything. I hate that I put in so many tears and hours into everything I do only to get so close, but never really there. I hate that I am not superhuman, extraordinary, an everythingbody. I hate that I am not capable of being more than I can be. I hate that I am just stuck here at an all time low, the words "I just can't anymore" pounding everywhere.
I hate that this entire time I have watched myself suffer and destroy myself in frenzy.
And how in the end, I am yet still too tired, and it is yet still Just. Too. Cold.