My parents raised me on the notion that the only acceptable grade is an “A.” I’ve always loved to learn; I enjoy completing homework and studying. Up until college, I didn’t have to worry too much about being subpar.
My first semester of college, I took eighteen credits including a five credit math class. I hated it. I’ve had math anxiety since honors algebra back in seventh grade, so just showing up to class was difficult. Unfortunately, presence is a prerequisite for performance. I walked away with a B, despite having skipped class and skirted studying. Somehow I was still disappointed.
I promised myself that would be the only blip on my college transcript. B is for blip, I told myself, and one blip is okay. I would work hard over the next three and half years, and I’d never have to face a B again.
This semester, my second semester of college, I’m taking sixteen credits—2 honors, 3 200s—and working two jobs. I’m perpetually stressed and exhausted. Today is the last day of my spring break, and I’m reentering reality. This morning, I realized I have a B in math. Again. Another big fat ugly B.
I’ve been in crisis-mode all day, questioning myself and my future. How could I let it happen again? What are grad schools going to think? How am I going to handle grad school if I can’t handle this? Will I even get into grad school? Would I even belong?
My curiosity and love for knowledge are core to who I am. I’m happiest surrounded by books and other thinking minds. That’s why I’m planning to attend grad school in the first place. Why do a couple of B’s freshman year of matter so much?
The real question: why am I linking my identity to an arbitrary measurement of achievement? Because, let’s be real, A isn’t for acceptable; A is for a hella arbitrary achievement.