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  • Writer's pictureBehind the Mask

Striving for Perfection — New Jersey

Whether it be in school, during a class, or simply at home, I have always strived to achieve perfection. Like most teenagers my age, I have always felt like my success is defined by my grades and how well I do in school. For years, I let myself be shaped into someone who was expected to get A’s and get into all honors classes, because that’s what was expected of me. Once COVID-19 came around though, there was both stress and the weight of the world on my shoulders. The world was already dealing with enough, let alone worrying about how well I did. For a period of time, I felt free. I did less work than I’m doing now, and I still got straight A’s. But then the end of summer came around again. Because of the flexibility of online learning, I had three summer programs at once, piling on top of each other to the point where I had assignments missing days after the deadline, if not weeks. Once high school came around, the same feeling lingered. I was once again stressing about my grades and my assessments.

It wasn’t until one day that I was sitting at my desk at 4am in the morning working on a history assignment that I took the time to reflect. I thought back to an article by Amy Chua I had read that said if children aren’t doing well, it means they’re not working hard enough. And I thought to myself, sure that’s true to some extent. But if the hours upon hours of work I’m putting in now isn’t hard work, will it ever be? Sure, maybe there were ways I could’ve studied harder or reviewed more, but in the end I knew that I was working hard. Even if my scores weren’t reflecting the work I was putting in, there wasn’t a way I could get them to. I came to realize that there were certain things I could control and others I couldn’t.

COVID-19 blindsided the world. The world has lost countless people, and it is hurting. We might not always have control over who survives and who doesn’t, but we do have control over how much time we spend with those people. I might not be able to change my grades after they’re decided, but I can control my response. I can control how much time I spend with my family. I can control my regrets. I used to regret going to sleep instead of studying harder, or not doing better in class, but as I see it now, I have only one regret; deep down, I know I have molded myself into a self-critical person that cannot be remolded.

— Mia Chen, 14

Edison, New Jersey


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