I need to speak about this.
This may not be as whimsical or joking as my other posts, because I’m disturbed. I’m deeply disturbed and actually a little hurt. Not for myself, but for the people who have been reaching out to me specifically and confiding in me. I see a disturbing trend in a subject that’s only ever touched on briefly in the media.
I’m on a website to help people dealing with depression or crisis or other mental health issues. (Yes, they train you, but what better training is there than having been in such situations yourself?) I spent a few hours today talking with a deeply saddened individual who was cutting themselves as we spoke and I stayed on the inter-web line with them until I could confirm they were safe to the best of my abilities. I also gave them resources links. I’m used to speaking with the deeply depressed and hopeless.
What I was not prepared for today was the influx of high school students applying to college, and undergraduates.
Obviously that’s a stressful time in many people’s lives: it was stressful in mine because I realized spending the last two years of my high school career smoking weed in the back of the school wouldn’t help me get into Stanford and that I was stuck in my home down for another three years. Who would have known? Life is a mystery.
I’m sure you’ve all heard recently that this generation of college applicants and high schoolers are under the most amount of stress yet. I’m sure you’ve all heard that because that’s all you hear–that one line. Maybe they mention the price of tuition (which, by the way, I was seriously considering sawing off my left leg and sending it in with one of my applications just to see if they’d willingly accept the payment) or the average required G.P.A (U.S.A standards here).
We don’t talk much anymore about how we force kids to intertwine their identity with their grades or about how we constantly compare their grades to their level of intelligence and therefore knowingly pressure them into perfection? Something we tell them from birth doesn’t exist?
I went through college prep; the class was small and I felt generally comfortable around them. We knew each other all four years. They stressed a 3.5 G.P.A and above, labeling 3.5 as the absolutely worst you could do.
Because I had nothing else, and because it was the only thing the school and I felt I could excel at, I turned to academia as my savior. So when I went to college and pushed a 3.9 G.P.A, I had self confidence. I could do something right, and people respected me for it, particularly for my writing. Each essay I wrote had to be better than the last. Each paragraph I wrote needed to be ingenious, particularly since I wasn’t so great of a talker.
Part of my drive to become an M.D came from the fact that people expect me to do something they consider great.
I’ve since found my own reasons to strive for it.
It all fueled my self-esteem and I wrapped my identity around it all. So when my mental health decided to tear me down and my G.P.A fell from 3.9 to 3.5 I almost killed myself. I was self-harming like crazy, sitting in my room, the stress and depression getting worse the more I focused on it, figuring out ways to kill myself with style.
I wished I could have a gun, that would have been the ultimate way to go out, like the man who took his life right down the street from my house in his car. Quick and painless if you do it right. They say those who use violent weapons are generally self-loathing and I certainly loathed myself at that point in my life.
Slitting the wrists vertical was an option, but I couldn’t leave the mess. I considered jumping off that one cliff again but could never find the energy to drive out there. Perhaps I didn’t want it enough.
If I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t want to be alive. I hadn’t even turned 19 yet.
These are values instilled in some of us in this education system. If you don’t live up to these expectations, if you don’t become this, if you don’t get into this school than what’s the point of your life? You can’t get a job without college, you can’t be happy without college, you’re NOTHING without college.
I beg to differ. Greatly.
I spoke to so many students today who scored spectacularly on the SAT (perfect score I believe), maintained amazing G.p.A’s and did everything right. Most of them got rejected from the schools they wanted.
Now let’s think about that for a moment. What does it take to get into an Ivy League school? Often money or Fame or family history or ethnic background help tremendously because let’s not forget that all too important quota to fill.
So the system they make us strive for perfection in, the system they say will guarantee us a good reputation (as if that defines our character), is one of the most imperfect piece of shit machines man has corrupted in the last few hundred years.
That’s how desperate we are as a society for perfection. It’s not what you do with yourself, it’s not how you handle or acquire the knowledge you do, it’s all about how it looks on paper.
This is why I loathe the reality of resumes and professional interviews; it’s all just a way to make yourself sound like some perfect, well oiled machine when you’re really just a ratty old human.
We’re obsessed with the idea and theory of intelligence, not so much the actuality of it. Everyone wants to be “smart”, but most people are conflicted on what that means. And for good reason.
I talked down another medical student ready to give up on life because he felt like his fellow students were more successful and perfect than him.
I saw an influx of people my age who could think about nothing more than their reputation, than who will be proud of them when they get finished slaving over a pot of grades on the stove of college, as if any of that determines a happy life. I took the time (a couple hours each person) to pull them from that warped mind set and got them into the present, talking about the good things about themselves, their personality, the other things in their life besides the pressures placed on them. I helped them see, for a brief moment, perfection doesn’t exist and I’m living proof.
I don’t see this as much in people who were not pushed as children to be better than everyone, in people who were exposed to other things besides academic education, in people who were allowed to develop their own interests instead of their worthiness as humans being placed upon their unusual level of intelligence.
So, more than anything, this is a message to the future college students and current college students who feel that stress of living up to a certain reputation that has somehow been placed upon you. A G.P.A is about as relevant to your life as your I.Q. Your I.Q is about as indicative of your intelligence as the bottom of my shoe, the one that stepped in the dog shit.
I mean, think about it. IQ tests mainly measure processing speed and vague understanding, (as well as learned knowledge they don’t tell you about). But who said that was the definition of intelligence? If the validity of science is determined by what it can measure and what it can detect, and the measurement is horribly inaccurate because of that fact that what you’re measuring can’t actually be measured unless you yourself create the parameters and definition of said thing being measured (and therefore end up with a biased definition), than how in the world can you logically conclude you can pinpoint the level of someone’s intelligence?
My point? Live by your own terms. It saves a lot of heartache on your part.