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Lindsay Thompson / Her Campus

Can I tell you a secret?

Maybe it isn’t a secret because of my frown as I glance at the photos of commemoration of yet another great achievement.

I know I should not feel this way.

A win for anyone in my community is a win for all of us.

But I want all of my achievements to be the best. Why?

Can I tell you a secret?

It makes me jealous to see that someone, a recent high school graduate of my alma mater, has achievements that seem to surpass anything and everything I could have ever achieved during my time within the confinements of those same buildings, taught by the same instructors. Both of us, breathing the same sweat of the summer-heat-varnished-gym as we walked across the same stage some years apart, while wearing the same navy-blue gown that caressed my body as I waited for the moment to grasp my tassel before yanking it to the right side of my face.

This jealousy makes the mere idea of this person uncontrollably annoying. They are barely a freshman, while I am a senior about to step foot into the final stretch of undergrad, currently scrambling to figure out what comes next but having no idea what my future holds.

I was told by someone that this person was actually widely disliked during high school. I am not exactly sure why, and my source does not know if there is a direct reason, but if I had to guess, this dislike is likely a symptom of distress oozing out of this person’s fellow classmates, underwhelmed at their own achievements while this person soared to the top of the list in the many activities they sought for.

When I think back at who I was in high school, I wonder if the reason some of my classmates didn’t talk to me has to do with the fact that I was a constant reminder of what it meant to be an overachiever who got lucky, finding a mentor to help guide me through dozens of hoops in order to come at the top of my own class?

Can I tell you a secret?

This person’s achievements almost feel like a personal attempt at being better than me. Clearly, this is almost certainly not true, especially since this person is almost an entire undergraduate experience younger than me, but it is hard not to feel that way when this person is doing exactly the kind of things I would have done, had I been at least a little confident in my ability to succeed. If I had only been confident that I am completely capable of transforming myself into a person that exudes confidence and charisma, a person who is able to make dozens of friends, but also a person who can be the top achiever in a school of top overachievers.

Is the reason I find this person annoying related to the fact that they are doing everything that, if I had a chance to go back to my early years of my undergraduate experience, I would have done?

How awful does it make me to think that maybe I am just so incredibly annoyed about this person’s achievements, given that, to some extent, I feel that it is unfair?

Maybe, I feel like this person did not work as hard as me, and maybe this person was handed opportunities on the basis of who they had connections to? Could it be?

Can I tell you a secret?

I hate that I think this way.

I hate that I am jealous.

I hate that I feel like this person did not suffer nearly enough as I did to get all of the opportunities that this person has gathered.

I hate that I think I could have been better in their position.

Can I tell you a secret?

I struggle with confidence.

I struggle with believing that my achievements will amount to nothing.

I struggle with believing that had I just applied to the same things this person is doing, I could have also developed the ability to be smug about how great I am.

I struggle with trauma, a generational trauma that is feeding me the idea that only a few can be at the top, when in reality, the sky is large enough to hold us all.

Can I tell you a secret?

I am still regretful when I see the praise I could have gotten if I had also pushed myself to participate in all of the things this person seems to be doing.

I am still jealous.

I still take a deep breath when I see posts of congratulations because I have received so few congratulations from adoring crowds on social media, and my heart aches as I think about all of my small victories that took a lot of energy to achieve.

But the reality is that I keep these achievements to myself. I do not want to come across as conceited or too proud or that I think I am better than everyone else. So really, the choice to keep my achievements to myself is one way that I am attempting to reclaim the narrative that big announcements are the only worthy investments of our time as students. The mere act of showing up to class and opening our minds up to learning with the final goal of being empathetic in the world is as important as being a scholar of this or that society, or winner of this or that academic prize, or part of this or that list of 20 under 20.

Can I tell you a secret?

I do not believe in forgetting where we come from. I also do not believe in keeping our pride to ourselves. But, our walls do not have to be decorated in plaques, or our LinkedIn profiles filled to the brim with long lists of experiences, in order to be just as valuable and worthy of pride in our contributions to our passionate causes.

Never forget this final secret.

Teresa Ruiz Vazquez

Chapel Hill '23

Teresa Ruiz Vazquez is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying English and Political Science.