Evelyn Hootman

© Copyright 2018 by Evelyn Hootman

Photo of students taking a test.

This story is when I just started high school and one (history) class changed me immensely as a person.

Perfection. Is it the constant success on any subject or being free from error and flaw? Does it pertain to each individual or can it be grasped as one ultimate end goal for all?

I brushed my achievements and accomplishments away, assuring myself I would allow praise after I had changed the world. Never would I have thought my first true reward I’d given to myself was for something imperfect. Years of school never betraying my 'perfect student' title and earning only a 4.0 GPA had passed. I looked upon the gradebook, delighted to see only the color green, (even though my favorite color is orange). Each painless test, evident homework assignment and enlivening essay were conquered as I easily finished. I’d be perplexed on how my classmates perceived the workload as impossible to finish or difficult. Testing out new theories and practicing new concepts eased my mind and contented my booming curiosity. I’ve known exactly who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.

I bounded confidently into the aging cerulean doors of my high school, admiring the vast space with golden panels lining the ceilings which harbored light, and the beautiful archaic architectural designs embossing the room. The tall, broad windows illuminated my awe-inspired face, cheeks round from the corner of my lips reaching out to my enthusiastic eyes. I’d say I was ill-prepared for what would soon be my defeat. Accustomed to swimming as a grand salmon in a tank of miniscule minnows, I sprinted blindly into the history book without fully grasping how I am faulty myself. Honors World History, my regret – not my place in the class, rather not knowing how to handle the difficulty, and my emotional state. I tried, and I couldn’t maintain my goal: strive to be perfect. I finally found something I was unable to conquer. Instead, it conquered me. I was appalled. Tests stabbed me in the back, homework assignments wrenched me down, and essays drowned me. Before each and every test, I’d spend countless of hours reviewing all my material, my papers and revisiting the textbooks. I was ashamed to let my classmates know how much I was struggling.

Exam day. I entered the room, glanced at the clock, processed the time. 8:46 it read. Then, I headed towards my seat, eager for the chiming of the bell to order us to begin class. The tests were passed out as quickly as I arrived, though it ended too soon. The bell ended class and called uncertain thoughts to resonate in my head. I just failed that test…didn’t I? Call me a pessimist, I can only think about all the questions I must’ve gotten incorrect. Stupid, stupid girl. This confusion struck me until I was shot to the ground before I could comprehend what had happened.
I passed the class in an outsiders’ point of view. Although in my mind, it was the grade that cracked my pristine window, it reminded me of my persistence; the grade that reminded me of my imperfection.
I got an A-. Need not I remind myself of the ‘minus’ part. The world and its contents are far from flawless, yet everyone attempts to become a little more ‘perfect’. Little did I know, I put immense pressure on myself, and my strict state of mind refused mediocre performance. Why do something but not be the best? What’s the point in being lost in an atmosphere of names when you deserve more? My focus was becoming the impossible idol to others, and myself.
I went in to have a chat with my teacher with a sliver of hope that I could possibly raise my grade by mere points.

No, there is no possibility of raising your grade. But you’ve been an incredible student, and studied the most out of all my students,” she said apologetically. I froze, unable to reciprocate that my grade was final. There was nothing I could do. This, I told myself, this is the day I come to accept my hard work. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re in the top 5 students in this class.” I could already feel my throat clenching, but I forced it down and my eyes glossing, but I blinked it away as quickly as it came.

Thank you very much,” I exclaimed with my best sincere smile, nodding my thanks to such a brilliant teacher.

You have been such a joy in class. You work so hard and show such commitment to everything to do! I’m so glad I got to know you this year,” she concluded. I’m extremely happy to have been taught by such a fantastic teacher. I’d much rather have a difficult class than a pitiful easy one. If I ever am your student again, just know, I’ll be prepared, is what I desperately wanted to exclaim, to show her how much I appreciate her pushing her students and for encouraging me. I exited her room with another sheer ‘thank you’. It was all that I could manage. I walked down the empty hallway, my shoes echoed through the place I had once believed to be simple. I stared down at the worn down beige and auburn tiles, rethinking what my history teacher had told me. I really did portray my greatest effort. I was an achiever. My thoughts meandered back to what I could have done better, but this time, the regret was replaced with something new, with satisfaction. I finished my freshman year much wiser than when I entered. The effort I put into this class showed how desperate I was to prove I could do anything.

I’ve been constantly building an image of being impeccable. Reward reminds us of the great things we've done and provides motivation to accomplish beyond limits. Spiraling twists of elation vibrate inside after I've completed an important project for LA, won a medal in track, or gave my election speech, leaving me passionate to achieve more. As I walk in the building with those all too familiar blue doors, my lips curl up into a smile. Trivial, insignificant, lame - whatever they may call it. I find that there is solace in imperfection.

I’m a young student living in Seattle, I run cross country and will someday major in biochemistry at MIT.

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