By Yasmin Ahuja
(Quick background- I wrote this piece in the middle of the night when I was super stressed out because I’ve realized that getting all my thoughts on paper makes me feel a lot better. This was originally written on Monday September 28.)
I’m 17 years old and I love who I’ve been. Today I had school off in order to observe Yom Kippur. However, I am not Jewish, so instead of participating in the Day of Atonement, I used this precious time for something even more life consuming than religion: college applications. For the most part of the afternoon I filled out a scholarship application due later this week, taking small breaks to drink coffee and to drop a box of homemade cookies off at my local UPS. Applying to this scholarship in the first place seemed like a kind of a long shot. My mom had heard that people who earned it were treated like gods, and I’ve never thought I deserved that kind of praise. But, while I answered these questions about my “most long-lasting contribution to my community” and “5 activities that showcase the most important parts about myself,” I slowly became more confident in my chances of moving to the next level in the application process. Seeing all my accomplishments throughout high school, ranging from actress to tennis captain to coder, compiled on one document made me see (for the first time) how “well-rounded” I seemed on paper. I was proud of this persona I created for myself: the girl who did it all.
Then, I got a text from a fellow classmate letting me know that our ACT scores had been released. All prior thoughts flew out of my head; my heart began to speed; sweat pooled behind my knees. My fingers typed in my log-in to the ACT website and faster than I had expected, there it was: my score. The whirlwind of emotions that I felt leading up to and immediately after seeing my score are insignificant. What I want to talk about instead, is why I’m writing this, 12 hours after laying eyes on my score. It’s 12:00 AM, past 12:00 AM actually, and I’m awake with my light on beside me. I tried to fall asleep, I really did. But I couldn’t get that score out of my head. I got up to grab this pencil and pad of paper because I could no longer continue as I had been: writhing around in my bed, telling myself that I was disappointed with my score and disappointed with myself. I literally said these exact words to my pitch-black room at 11:57 at night.
The feeling of hatred I had for the world in that moment makes almost impossible for me to believe that I was proud of myself just this afternoon. 12 hours ago I was more than happy to be nothing but five activities, three short responses, and three long essays. But now that I’ve been reduced to a number, I’m unable to go 30 minutes without feeling utter contempt for myself. And I know that it’s not just about being reduced to a number– it’s about the number not being what I had hoped it was. God knows that if I got a few points higher I wouldn’t be sitting here, at now 12:26 AM, writing this down. I don’t know what this is: a critique on society, a critique on myself. All I’m positive about is the complete polarity between my emotions this morning and my emotions right now. Both had to do with forgetting that I’m more than just a list of my accomplishments. That I’m more than a number between 1 and 36. That I’m a human being. I’m 17 years old and I hate who I’ve become.