We’re about to venture into the deepest, darkest thoughts of Abby (insert villainous laugh). I’d say grab a cup of tea, but you might want to clutch on something a bit stronger. Tips: If by the end, you’re a bit depressed, I suggest googling pictures of puppies; they always make me feel better.
“I exist as I am, that is enough. ” Walt Whitman
Growing up, I was an intelligent child. I made A’s and my B’s were few and far in between. I was labeled as “the smart child” in my family, and everyone seemed to accept that I would excel. As I passed through elementary, Jr. High, and high school, nothing drastically changed. Yes, my math scores dipped into the low B region, but I was still the golden smart child. The older I became, I realized that I needed to work towards that title. I studied hard, and it was evident. My grades stayed high and my conduct outside school was impeccable. My small circle of friends were not the partying type, so we were content to go out for sushi and a movie. All in all, I did nothing wrong. I spent my nights holed up in my bedroom with open textbooks littering my bed. If there was a party, I sure as hell didn’t know about it.
Many reach high school and lose all their inhibition, but not me. I remained the home-body who only ventured out to visit friends, go to school, and to attend a football game (on extreme rare occasion). I kept my grades high and my standards even higher. As the years ticked on, many began to talk of my potential which, in turn, triggered my own train of thought. My dad talked of esteemed colleges and the medical field. We spent hours discussing the benefits of this university over that one. My mother tended to be less expressive, but I could tell that she wanted me to go into a prestigious field. She nonchalantly suggested things in the medical and science field, and eyed the top universities in the state. Colleges were googled, and my bedroom dresser was soon covered in a myriad of pamphlets about colleges, careers, and jobs. Before I knew it, I was a bustling senior in high school. People started asking me to make life-changing decisions (repeatedly), and I was forced to face the facts: I wasn’t as smart and golden as everyone (including myself) believed.
As I reflected upon myself, I realized that I wasn’t exceptionally intelligent. I struggled to make the grade, and I did it only with the addition of late night study sessions and hard work. In truth, I despised most subjects. Math was torture, sciences were borderline exhausting, and all those tedious computer classes made my eyes hurt. Other than my English and literature classes, I wasn’t as natural at learning as my family thought I was. I soon found that in addition to being okay in school, I also didn’t have any measurable talent. I’m not overly social and due to my hearing problems, people often get easily irritated with my tendency to be slow to answer. I did not possess any distinguishable ablilities. My rock was my intelligence, and that wasn’t cutting it. This hit me hard because I was supposed to be smart! I was supposed to be successful! My siblings had their place, and I had mine. My sister, Kate, was the social butterfly, capable of handling any situation life threw at her. Her quick tongue could cut through emotions and bullshit, and her loud personality made an impression on everyone she met. My brother, Henry, was the hard worker. He could wire up a house or build something, and make it look like it was the simplest thing. Despite his annoying demeanor, his projects often inspired awe and a generous amount of jealousy. They seemed to be living up to their titles, so why wasn’t I? Failure was something that scared the shit out of me; it’s why I worked so hard in school. I didn’t try to bend the rules, yet I felt like life was punishing me anyway. Senior year had its ups and downs, but this was the bottom of the barrel. After that, I really didn’t care. Due to my hard work, I had acquired Honors and an acceptable class rank. Those were the few things that were really guiding me at that point, so I was incredibly lost. When all was said and done, I forced through my own mental block, and made a decision. As I looked forward and conjured up a picture of what I wanted my life to look like, I only saw what was expected of me, not what I really wanted. So, I spent the second half of my senior year (and countless hours in my bedroom, blaring Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters And Men, and The Avett Brothers) figuring out what I wanted, and I came up with a major that pleased me: English Literature.
Yes, the kid that was supposed to dull the rest of the world with her knowledge wants to major in English Literature. Abby, the wise child, was content with her books, just not the ones that everyone thought she’d be. I had a copy of Jane Eyre (my absolutely favorite book) in my purse instead of a textbook, and my grammar is impeccable rather than my factoring skills. I had been partial towards classical literature for years. If you were to go into my bedroom at any given time, you would either find me studying or waist deep in a novel. Anyone who knows me knows that I prefer my fictional characters and their problems to real life. Despite my new development, that feeling of being a failure clung to me. Sleep alluded me when I dwelt on my future and what it would be like. I’d never make much money. I’d probably end up as a professor or working at a publishing company, but I was…okay with that. It wasn’t the future everyone had mapped out for me, but it seemed the only path where I would end up happy. I knew this would make me happy, but I was still hung up on what everyone else wanted and expected! Everyone had an opinion for my path, and even alone, their never-ending suggestions followed. The image of their upturned noses when I mentioned English Literature was burned into my brain, but I learned to ignore them. My decision was mine and mine alone (Damn their opinions).
“One must not expect every thing.”
― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
I’m now a freshman in college, and I am fairly confident in my major. Senior year was a private hell because the entire year felt like a competition: Abby vs. everyone’s expectations. Even as I walked across that stage on graduation day, I was hyper aware of my own self-doubt. Even now, I don’t pretend to know all the answers. I’m slowly building onto my future based on what makes me happy, and literature has always done that. Once I focused on that and other things that made me genuinely happy, life got a tad less obscure. Breathing became easier and my sleep cycle was finally restored (Thank God!). So, to all those “smart kids” who are realizing that they’re less than they wanted to be, it’s absolutely okay. Here’s some (hopefully) helpful advice:
- Stop focusing on everyone else’s expectations of you
- Find out what makes you happy.
- Plan a life around it.
“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”
― Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre