I am a Perfect American | Teen Ink

I am a Perfect American

June 5, 2019
By Anonymous

I walk in the door.

    “How was school, honey?”

    “Great mom, I love school, it’s so great. Who doesn’t love tests, and homework, and sleepless nights, and stress, and 7 hours of mind-numbing boredom before going home, doing 10 more hours of homework, then going to sleep just to wake up and do it all again tomorrow?”

    “But you’re so good at it”

Yeah. I’m so good at it. So good at getting good grades. Good at bringing home that near perfect report card to put on the fridge. Good at making the people around me happy, and proud.

    “Thanks mom.”

We have the same conversation every day. I don’t know why she even bothers to ask anymore.

    “I’m going upstairs.”

Yeah, I do well. Does that automatically mean I love it? Automatically mean I have to be valedictorian, maintain my perfect GPA, go to an Ivy League school? I always feel like I’m drowning. Drowning in my work, drowning in my friendships, drowning in my family. No one knows. Because “I’m so good at it.” So good at hiding it. So good at getting good grades. So good at being perfect, at pretending. People tell me I’m perfect. That I’m pretty, and brilliant, and athletic. That automatically means that I’m perfect; automatically means that I have my life together, have everything figured out, don’t get sad, or stressed, or breakdown. Some nights, so overwhelmed, beginning my homework before one A.M. seems impossible. But it’s okay because the rigor of my schedule will get me into a good college. I can’t take easier classes because I get good grades, because the drop in rigor will force the top universities to reject me, and the drop in course weight will kill my GPA. It’s okay, because once I get into a good school I can relax. I will be free from the confines of a strict, 8 period per day, lunch-free schedule with never ending homework. It’s okay because other people can do it so why wouldn’t I be able to.

    “Dinner!” My mom calls up to me melodiously. “I made your favorite!”

I walk downstairs to have dinner with my family, knowing that at least it really is my favorite. I have almost the same meal every night: a piece of fish with olive oil, lemon and garlic, half a potato, and some sort of vegetable. The one thing I do have control over is how I eat. Even in the Spring when I’m not playing a varsity sport, and I don’t have enough time to workout, or exercise because of homework, I can still eat healthy. But in the back of my mind, I wonder how that will continue in college when I don’t have a kitchen. I wonder how everything will just turn out okay because it’s college. I wonder if it will really be any different.

    “How was school” my dad asks.

He snaps me back to reality, not allowing my thoughts to overwhelm me. Though I know he’s being sincere, I don’t feel like repeating the same conversation twice every day.

“Good” I mumble.

“How were your tests?”

“Good.”

We finish eating and I go upstairs to shower, letting the scorching hot water run down my back, and through my hair. I get out, my body red and raw from the heat. I brush my teeth, and my hair, finish my homework and finally go to sleep.

    The next morning my alarm goes off at 6:30 A.M. like it does every morning when I proceed to snooze it and fall back asleep. I then jolt out of bed at 7, running frantically to leave my house by 7:10. I grab the tea my dad makes me every morning, and bolt out the door to make it to first period exactly on the bell. The day drags on until lunch (a rarity to have in your schedule).

    My friends are all talking about a really hard physics test we had just gotten back. They all are so thankful for their passing grades, or upset that they had failed.

    “What did you get” someone asks me.

I hesitate, expecting the same response I receive every time.

    “One hundred” I say quietly.

    “Of course” they all say jokingly, but in my mind I hear the twinge of mockery. Not that I’m not proud of doing well, and not that I don’t work hard, but a sliver of embarrassment always lingers when people ask me my grades. So I stopped sharing them. I started keeping to myself more. The day continues, I go home, have the same conversation with my mom, start homework, then it’s dinnertime again.

As we eat my mom reminds me

    “Remember your ACT is Saturday morning!”

    “Great.”

I think to myself “why am I taking this test again? I know I did well the first time.” Then I remember that I didn’t earn that perfect score, that perfect 36. To get into a “good” college, a college of the caliber that is expected of me, I must achieve a 36. So I must sit through another five and a half hour long test. And I must be perfect this time.

    But I probably won’t be. And that’s okay. And although people expect me to do well, and people believe that I always do well, I don’t. Yes, I get good grades, and work hard, but I can mess up. I can forget to complete a homework assignment, or bomb a test when I can’t focus. Every day is the same thing: the same routine, the same conversations. People expect me to be perfect, believe that I am perfect. People expect me to go to an amazing school. Amazing schools then in turn expect me to be perfect in order to accept me. But it’s okay, because I know that I’m not perfect, and I don’t have to be.

    I excuse myself from the table, prepare for bed, finish my homework, then get into bed early. I drift off to sleep, and the corners of my mouth are upturned ever so slightly, so warm and cozy beneath my covers. Content. But not perfect.



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