Changing with Cider: Accomplishments


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I remember the first time I cried about schoolwork. I was in third grade and sitting with my mom at the dining room table. Up until then, I had never worried about math, until I saw an “x.” I didn’t know what it meant or why it was there. All I knew was this was math and math had numbers, not letters. So, out of pure frustration, I began sobbing. 

Letters in math are familiar to me now, but so is that terrible feeling of pure frustration. I still hate not knowing what I’m doing in my academics. It makes me feel like my head is spinning. It’s like I’m pacing in a boxed up room while everyone is outside, running to the finish line. 

Needing to do better is a feeling I know far too well. Sometimes, I think it’s embedded in my genetics when I see my mother up for hours late at night. I know I at least picked the trait up from her. My ambition is a learned thing. It’s a survival skill. I need to do my best, so I can live the best, right?

In some cases, being driven and ambitious can be one of the best virtues a person has. It’s the first step to achieving goals, and it shows a person’s character of being determined throughout life. It’s why I do well in and out of school. It’s why I keep treading through the murky waters of life. I know there’s a reason for it all. 

Although, that’s not to say there aren’t negatives to this characteristic. There are and I’ve faced them myself. The worst part being the connection it has to self-esteem. A missing assignment often means I have to deal with a bitter distaste toward myself for a few hours or days. It’s often a double standard too. When I see a friend with a poor test grade, I think nothing of it. Everyone has their bad days. Yet when I get two points off my geometry test it feels like the world is ending. 

Ambition is a consuming desire. It’s ruthless and always apparent. I have to stay up for full nights every week. I have to understand and solve these formulas. This sentence needs to sound perfect. I need to be perfect. It’s a tiring cycle that stays constant. It has ruined my ability to live normally at times. And it was all because I wanted to excel in my academics. I wanted to prove I could do something and be someone important. But a lingering feeling still stood. I could be better. I needed to be better.

The issue became apparent soon into my freshman year. I was putting so much stress on myself to the point where I couldn’t even look at my Chromebook. I spent hours doing anything and everything else. Sleeping in. Watching TV. Selling my soul to TikTok. Countless assignments were discarded because it felt like there was no point. It didn’t matter if I tried hard. Only the outcome was important, and it had to be perfect. 

This idea was becoming more and more harmful. It was affecting me tremendously. I felt like a shell of a person both inside and outside of school. It was hurting all of my relationships, especially with my friends and family. I then realized how badly I was handling it all, and I began understanding the issue. I needed to stop focusing on those negative thoughts. I needed a change. 

The change could only come from me. I knew that much. I just didn’t know how to make this change in perspective. I asked for some help with others, but the main gist that I got was:

  • Set realistic expectations: This was a big struggle for me at first. I knew I wanted to keep at least the lower 90s throughout my classes, but I also began telling myself that I could study for a certain amount of time a night. 
  • Don’t compare yourself: Being in all honors classes makes this difficult. I constantly hear people talking about the grades they got, and my brain goes into comparison mode. I’ve gotten better at the habit, but it still pops up once in a while. When it does happen, I remind myself that a grade doesn’t show everything and there is much more to me than just one number. 
  • Acknowledge what you’ve done: Similar to the last point in the fact that there’s so much more to a person than one grade. I’ve already accomplished so much, and it’s okay if I’m not always amazing at everything. I’ve done good things, and I will continue to do so.

This change took a while to get the process in motion, and it’s still an ongoing battle. Some days I feel like a victor and other days I want to wave a white flag. 

I got help from many people. I learned how to disconnect my own feelings toward myself from the grades I was getting in school. Anytime I get a less than ideal grade I remind myself that it’s just one grade. Not every test score needs to be perfect. I can always bring that grade up, and if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. In short, I’m more than my accomplishments. I’m far from perfect, and that’s okay.