Five days out of the week, I wake up, go to school, come home, do homework, and collapse on the bed with weary eyes that have absorbed too much.
Two days out of the week I volunteer, take Sunday classes, go to mass, and prepare my mind for the next five days of brain-busting.
The vicious cycle repeats again and again. It’s a perpetual, taxing lemniscate of robotic actions and little creativity, only made bearable by the loneliness of humans who bear an identical cross.
I feel we all slightly lose ourselves in this lethargic daze of student life, yet we find ourselves there, too. We learn how we learn, how to learn. Through trial and error, we discover who we are, who we’re not, and what it’s going to take to be who we want to be. Slowly, the things that are important to us become buoyant while everything else drowns or drifts away, like sleeping otters who’ve unconsciously unclasped the hand of their partner.
But sometimes this frenzy of thought, this befuddling bubble of people pushing us in the direction they think we want to go in makes us believe we actually want to go there when our heart screams otherwise.
Sometimes I feel like life’s a hallway and our true selves are at the end of it, though we must go against the grain, swim against the rapid current of people and fight to not lose the ghost of ourselves in the crowd. We musn’t be distracted by the colorful doors or else we’d find a twisted version of ourselves and stamp our foreheads with “HAPPY” when we hesitantly embrace it.
This is, at least, what life feels like for me at the moment. This is probably an echo of what other students feel, though the fright of vulnerability has maybe replaced it with a more subdued version, a beach without waves.
Maybe it’s the time school occupies that makes us question its worth, or maybe it’s the forehead-creasing bafflement that forces devoted students to invest in grades, or maybe they’re both contributors to the depreciation of our true identity.
We lose ourselves in ranks, GPAs, or honor rolls, and forget that we are more than a number. We forget that grades do not define us. We forget that school is not a competition, but a vivacious opportunity to learn and grow.
We forget we are more than students.
As for me, I’ll try not to forget. I’ll write it in the condensation on mirrors from hot showers, I’ll spell it out in alphabet soup, I’ll even ink it in red on homework — but I won’t sacrifice my student days trying to outdo or prevent being outdone. Instead, I’ll devour knowledge until it devours me, until it blossoms into an earnest love for learning. I’ll create and fulfill my own definition of success. I’ll fight for the girl at the end of the hallway; she sees the my transparent ghost struggling and smiles at the thought of infusing it with color once it reaches her.
I am more than a student, and the day I give up what I love to participate in this worldly race for “intelligence” will be the day I’ve lost.