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The Pressure of Being a Smart Girl

"Akala ko ba matalino ka?"
IMAGE Unsplash ART Clare Magno

I've always been an honor student ever since I started studying. My grades were consistently high and I was always part of the group that marched last during recognition days or graduations because I had special awards. Time and again, I was a role model, taking home certificates and ribbons and medals, my parents always proudly smiling at my side as the cameras flashed.

Around the fourth grade, I started breaking down from the pressure. There were expectations from every side of the family bearing down on me like the whole world. My grades dropped, and I fell from the Top 3 in our grade level.

Despite this, I was still encouraged to enroll in a Science High School and surprisingly, I passed. My parents were thrilled, but I felt down. What would it be like there? Will I excel or will I fail? I tried not to think about it, but it lulled at the back of my mind.

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My four years in a Science High School taught me one main thing: You may not be the top notcher, but you're the best in your own way. Unlike in elementary school, I never became an honor student in high school and never had an award for academics. But I felt like I fit in with the people there and the environment. We joined forces in trying to understand a lesson, and we patted each other's backs as we received our test scores. I didn't feel pressured to be anything or anyone. I was just the writer, the project conceptualizer, the graphic artist because I wanted to be that.

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I was busy and rather stressed most of the time, but I still enjoyed what I did. Everyone accepted me for who I am, and encouraged me to improve. If I didn't exactly meet the expected grade, people were sympathetic, saying that it's okay and I can do better.

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Unfortunately, I had to transfer schools for senior high because my chosen strand, which is the ABM strand, was not being offered by my school. The new school was promising and I felt confident that I could adapt quite easily, despite not having any friends friends yet. Before the start of the school year, I decided that I would lay low and not draw too much attention to myself.

That plan failed. From the very beginning, even as I tried to be somewhat quiet about it, my background as a Science High School graduate was emphasized. I was questioned as to why I chose ABM as a strand instead of STEM, and why I did not want to be a doctor.

I was questioned as to why I chose ABM as a strand instead of STEM, and why I did not want to be a doctor.

It didn't help either that I seemed to excel in most of my subjects, earning praise from my teachers and my peers. I couldn't seem to shut off my skills when I wanted to hide and not have attention drawn to me.

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It was more difficult this time to meet expectations, since almost everyone looked at me like I was the one who should be followed, like everything I did and said was automatically right. I was assigned to be a leader several times, I was one of the people they turned to for answers. They viewed me as someone who could always have high scores.

But I knew I couldn't do it. I knew that I was going to get a low grade, and then I worried about what they would think of me and my previous school. Out of everything I was afraid of, I was terrified of being disappointed in myself.

Soon enough, I dropped from the top 10 ranking and I was asked again and again: What happened? I didn't want to discuss it.

I think it was the stress, I think I let the pressure get to me again and I let it tear me down. I wanted to go back to my old school. I wanted to feel like it was okay to not have high grades anymore. I wanted to not have any eyes on me anymore every time I did something. I didn't want the constant questions or the assumption that I knew absolutely everything.

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I wanted to feel like it was okay to not have high grades anymore.

These expectations follow me around to this day and it bothers me because  in truth, I'm really just ordinary. I'm good at English, and sometimes I have a hard time solving Math problems. Yes, I came from a Science High School, but there are some areas of Science that I can't excel in. I have my skills and capabilities, and I have my weaknesses, which I do not deny.

I guess what I'm saying is we are all capable of doing different things. Even the ones who appear to be brilliant at first can still have downfalls. Someone's background in education is not always the best basis for how good they are, nor should it define what they should be. We are all good at something, and although some may be better at other things, you shouldn't downgrade yourself.

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Someone's background in education is not always the best basis for how good they are, nor should it define what they should be.

Lesson learned: Don't doubt yourself. If you can do it, do it. It's okay to be a little better than others at some subjects, and it's okay to not be as great with other subjects. It doesn't mean that you can't do great things, no matter where you came from.

Want to write about your experience in school? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About the author
Aleeza Abinuman
Candymag.com Correspondent
Aleeza is a business student, who enjoys crime shows, fantasy books, and occasionally, writing her heart out.
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When everything around you suddenly turns dark, the first thing we'd prolly do, as humans, is to find and grab anything that is closest and nearest to us. We'll hold onto them for as long as we can, trying to collect ourselves and gather courage to adjust our eyesights to the pitch black environment that's consuming us minute by minute. And then you'd hear nothing. Your sense of hearing would somehow go off after not seeing anything for quite awhile. You'll let loose. Cry. Panic. You'll be exhausted for fighting your way out. Then just when you're about to stop and give up, you're no longer afraid. There's only this deafening silence and pithole of darkness that's gonna eat you up alive. And surprisingly, you'll make a home out of it.

You'll make a home out of the darkness that when a ray of light suddenly hits you, you'll try to avoid it. You'll try to cover your eyes. You'll try to cover your ears from the voices trying to help you get out of it. You'll try to hide because your mind and body will go against your will to come out and live. Because the darkness that used to scare you, now comforts you in a way you thought has helped you survived life. And you'll try to live. Day by day. In the darkness. Not knowing where to go. Not knowing where to start. Not knowing who is with you. You will try to live until the darkness that once surrounds you is now within you. And everyday, it's gonna be a cycle of subtle torture. But let me tell you a secret. The darkness won't make you whole.

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You'll be broken. And in those hair-like cracks, the light will stubbornly fight its way through until it warms you up. Until you realize to check the switch and turn it on. Until you allow other people to help you find your way back in the light. Until you realize you're ready to live in light again. There's a light at the end of this long and dreading tunnel. The only question that matters: will you let them in?

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