It’s the same old routine every math class. I sit down, and get out my binder. Looking on the board to see what we’re doing today, I start working on the assignment. The teacher hands back the test from last week. I glance up, and she gives it to me like a 7-Eleven cashier giving a receipt to a customer and says, “Good work. ” I got a 98%. I quietly set it down on my desk, and get back to work. My tablemates see and roll their eyes. “Look, Andy got another A,” one says. “It’s not fair, why can’t I get a A?” another one complains. To me though, I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as what’s expected of me, in school, every time.
The classroom is where I spend most of my day, and thus, it has grown normal for me to behave in a certain way in the classroom. I am quiet, respectful, and don’t really talk out of turn. I just put my head down and get the work done. While I have friends in the classes that I talk to, I try not to let it distract from my classwork. I’m never totally relaxed there, as there’s always something to do. I try to be polite to everyone, and I don’t disrupt the class. Unfortunately, this isn’t the version of myself with which I feel most comfortable. Obviously, all versions of myself are still me, but some feel more authentic than others. The most genuine me is when I’m at a friend’s house, unmonitored, and have little expected of me.
I’m the most loose and relaxed version of myself when I’m at a friend’s house. I can be loud, and I can make jokes that maybe other people besides my friends might take offense at. I definitely talk differently with my friends than in the classroom, using slang and profanity. After a long day, this is the easiest way for me to unwind. I tend to laugh a lot more around my friends, as I’m just more relaxed and calm. We’ll just hole up in my friend’s room and play video games, laughing at each other’s mistakes and hyping each other up whenever we get a kill. Usually we’ll get some kind of junk food, whether it’s Cheetos or soda, and just laugh as we recall each other’s past failures with girls. Just being in that sort of environment makes me completely at ease. My manners don’t completely go out the window though, as their parents will come home at some point and I won’t want to offend them. The reason I’m this way is because I don’t have adults monitoring me, and little is expected of me. At school or at home there’s always an adult monitoring what I’m doing. Whether it’s a teacher or my parents or a coach, there’s always someone there. But, when I’m hanging out with my friends, it’s completely different. I’m not talking about friends I just made in high school, who I fear might judge me. I’m talking about old friends, basically brothers, who I’ve known for years. It just feels natural to hang out with them, and, even if we do get into conflicts, I know they will work themselves out. If my friend says something dumb or whiffs on a kill in a video game, I’ll call them a idiot or stupid, and know they’ll come right back at me. We can just be honest and tell each other what we think, and no one is going to get offended. I can’t talk with my parents about everything, as I still consider them my parents and not my buddies. But with my friends, I can talk to them about anything, and I know I won’t be judged for it.
At home, I’m expected to study a lot, do the chores, and more. While these aren’t particularly hard to follow, just having nothing expected of me and no adults monitoring me puts me at ease. At home though, I know my mom could be watching me out of the corner of her eye, so I’m always quiet and respectful. I talk with my mom a lot, and I’d say we have a pretty good relationship, but I’m just not as comfortable talking with her as I am with my friends. At home, I’m a lot more subdued, mostly because I’m tired after a long day. Around my house though, there are constant reminders of the expectations I’m supposed to live up to. Every time I pass by the living room, I see my dad’s plaques hanging on the wall. In my brother’s old room, my current room, I see his diploma, and a proud picture of him graduating from UC Berkeley with honors. Every day, I hear, “You have to do this to get into Stanford.” The thing is, I would like to go to Stanford or some other top-notch university. I expect to do well in school, to do well later on in life. But, when I add the external expectations from my family to my own expectations of myself, it amounts to a lot of pressure. I think that the key to relieving a little bit of the pressure and making me a little more comfortable is communication. It’s not just about where I am or who I’m surrounded by, but about how I feel, and whether I feel the need to hide something or not.
I’m obviously more comfortable when I’m with a friend than a teacher or my parents, because they have expectations for me to succeed and do great in school, and my friends have expectations for me to carry them in video games and occasionally share some of my chips. But, I’ve come to a point where I can be authentic in my own house and school and not feeling the need to hide something. I don’t expect my house to be the same as hanging out at my friends house. I don’t want my mom to be my best friend, that’s what best friends are for. I don’t need to tell my mom every single thing about my life. It’s important to meet new people, and if my mom was my best friend, I probably would be less inclined to branch out. For me, I need my mom to be my mom, not my best friend. That being said, I do believe that communicating with my mom more would help. The reason I’m so comfortable with my friends is because I can communicate freely with them, and there isn’t really anything I have to hide. While I’m not going to tell my mom everything about my life, I believe that having this same honesty that I have with my friends with her would help. If she knew that my expectations mostly aligned with hers, I feel like she would be more relaxed. This would be the same in school too. If I got to know my teachers better outside the classroom, maybe talk with them after class or go to office hours, I think they would better understand where I’m coming from. I wouldn’t have to place so much pressure on myself to be seen as a certain type of kid because my teachers would know me as that type of kid already.