The Special Snowflake

Like I mentioned before I was a pretty good student in elementary and middle school. School provided me with the right amount of structure to be successful: learn the material, do the homework, take a test, repeat. I was hardly ever concerned with my grades as I knew every paper I touched would come back as an A or MAYBE a B on a hard test or project.

Side note:

The only time I ever cared about getting or not getting all A’s was during the holiday season. My parents have a total of three brothers between them. In elementary school, two of them didn’t have kids and my sister and I were the next best thing. Playing into their competitive spirit, my sister and I would grab our most recent report card and bring it to one of them. The more A’s we got, the more money he would give us. Then, after our thank you’s, we turned around and went to the other one, knowing we would at least double our money. It was a great system, until the recession. Then getting A’s didn’t mean too much of anything to me.

Who me? Couldn't be!

So going into high school, I wasn’t too concerned with ~working hard~ or ~studying~ as I never had to. I distinctly remember my freshman orientation where my advisor lectured me and my classmates about doing well in our first year. She explained that by the end of the first semester we would have a grand point average (GPA), basically a number that averages your grades in all of your classes. She told us that it is nearly impossible to have a great GPA your senior year if you don’t do well the first two years. She also told us a story of how some students thought they were ~special~ and could magically turn their GPA around their senior year after doing poorly their first couple of years. My advisor called these students ‘Special Snowflakes.’ I thought to myself, “Yeah maybe other students couldn’t do it in the past, but they’ve never met anyone like me before.” Spoiler Alert: I was a ‘Special Snowflake.’

My middle school didn’t have any advanced or honors classes. (However, they did separate students based on the math course they were taking that year, which is wrong on so many levels, but that’s a story for another day). So I knew the honors classes would be harder, but definitely not too hard for me, the Special Snowflake. Even though I was cocky, I was vaguely aware of my strengths and weaknesses. So I took Honors Biology and Geometry, historically my best subjects, and omitted Honors English, my worst.

My other classes were anywhere between intensely boring and mildly engaging. But my honors classes were so much fun. I took Geometry with one of the girls on my cheer team, Chloe and I even made a friend, Mary (which was a HUGE deal for me, because it meant I said more than two words to a new person). I had taken Geometry in the 8th grade but didn’t do well enough on the placement test to skip it entirely. I knew the material well enough to get bored at times. So, I spent the majority of my time talking to my friends (who were eventually moved to the other side of the room). However, Honors Biology was something, different. I liked my teacher and I liked the material, but I could never master it.

Side note:

You know how when you go to plug in an electronic to an electrical socket you can’t see and it disappears? Like you can feel the socket with your fingers and when you look for it, it’s still there. But it takes a month and a day to finally plug it into the wall. That’s how biology was. The large-scale things made sense, but applying it was pretty much a no-go for me.

Don't you mean stu-DYING?

So the first big exam of the year was approaching and my classmates talked about how they were doing this thing called ~studying~ where they did who knows what for HOURS just to learn the material. That seemed like the biggest waste of time. I was supposed to finish my homework and then make up more work to do? No thank you. I figured if I could, eventually, get through the homework, why did I need to spend more time learning? I knew there were some things I missed being distracted by the clouds moving outside the window (it was more interesting than learning how many bonds and oxygen atom makes) and dreaming up how my high school crush would turn around from his seat two rows ahead of me and profess his undying love for me or how we would meet at a ski lodge on New Year’s Eve and sing a duet as the clock stroke midnight. (IYKYK)

Side note: I know. Dramatic right? Especially considering I was always too shy to say more than three words at a time.

I took the test and began to realize why my classmates had spent so much of their time studying over the past few weeks. There was material I knew I learned, but I couldn’t remember the specific details they asked for in the exam. And to this day I am convinced that we never learned some of that material. Regardless, I remember the day my teacher passed back the exams. She curved the paper down so others couldn’t see the red ink with the score on it. And I thought to myself, “She might as well give me my exam face up, who cares if I got 91 vs a 100, an A is an A.” In hindsight, I am very glad she handed me the paper as she did.

Well this is new

My exam had this mark on it that I hadn’t seen on any of my assignments. It looked like she started to right a B, but stopped after the first curve. “Ridiculous!,” I thought. “There’s no way - Oh.” I began flipping through the exam to see red mark after red mark to the point where I was searching for dear life to find the ones I got right. I, Asia Woods, had earned the LOWEST grade ever in my life.

After sharing the results with my parents, they told me to drop honors biology and switch to regular biology. I remember the pain I felt. This was the first time anyone had EVER doubted my ability to succeed academically, and the first people were my parents. Being a prideful 14-year-old, terrified of admitting defeat I begged them to let me stay in the honors class. And they let me stay, and the bad grades kept coming. We repeated the same conversation for the remainder of the year. Did my grades ever get better? No, they stayed right above the line of failure. But, I had proved my point that I could pass the class.

To the girl who thought she never could…

I have two minds on what to tell you.

Half of me is happy that you learned perseverance. You said you were going to do something and you made it happen. Even though you only remember none of the course material, the confidence you gained from passing the class will help you in the years to come.

The other half isn’t very impressed. Switching to a regular class does not mean that you are lesser than or not capable of doing great things. You don’t have to fight in every battle that comes your way. The seemingly “easy” road would still have its challenges. I wish you could have learned how to define the limits of the stress you were willing to endure for a piece of paper that says you graduated. You could have saved yourself a lot of heartaches.

Regardless, you made the decision you made and you gained a skill. The other you’ll have to earn later. Oh, and I'll let you know if you ever learn how to study.

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