Tell Me You Love Me 

Last Saturday, one of my best friends took me to a Demi Lovato Concert at the Capital One Arena in DC. When she first invited me, I was a tad apprehensive. I didn’t know much about Demi, just that she was a famous actress and singer. Regardless, I was flattered by my friend’s consideration and decided to go, so I could enjoy the experience with her. I remembered liking Demi’s hit songs “Confident” and “Heart Attack,” and I was curious to listen to more, especially because my friend loved her so much.

In the weeks prior to the concert, I took on the task of familiarizing myself with Demi’s music. I downloaded her albums on Spotify and played them on the bus, at the gym, and in the shower. I mostly listened to her “Tell Me Love You” album because it was the theme of her tour.

I don’t usually pay attention to lyrics when listening to music, so I didn’t have a clear idea of what Demi’s songs were about. I could jam out and sing along to the chorus, but I didn’t know exactly what her words meant.

Fast forward to Saturday night. My friend and I are at the concert, and, after a few hours of opening acts, Demi comes on. She begins her performance with upbeat singing and dancing but transitions into some of her more serious music. Before playing her sadder songs, Demi addressed the audience. She made clear that her concert was a safe space, and she explained the context of the song she was about to sing—a song dedicated to her recently deceased father, who had suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

I was amazed. At a pop concert, in front of thousands of people, a celebrity was taking the time to address the stigma surrounding mental illness. She admitted to her own struggles with alcohol addiction and stressed the importance of seeking treatment. Demi discussed the future she envisioned, a future where people could open up about mental illness and seek mental health without shame or guilt.

After her speech, I began listening closer to her lyrics. And they resonated with me. I realized why so many love her so much. She uses her music to share her pain and her victories with the world. Her songs touched me. I found I could relate to her. Moreover, her confidence and perseverance inspired me. Since Saturday, I’ve been listening to Demi nonstop. I am proud to call myself a fan, and I hope to see her perform again.


A is for Acceptable 

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.