A lot of students joke that they aren’t equipped to handle college. They ask themselves, “Why am I even here? I can’t do this.” Many of us were at the top of our class in high school. We were in AP and Honors classes, and we were the crème of the crop of our class. Then, when we got to Pitt we took a look around and were surprised by how evenly matched with our peers we were…or sometimes we felt like we were miles behind.
I know for me it feels like I’ve been running a race where I was doing really well. I was keeping a good pace, and I was ahead of most of the runners. That was high school. Then, for a brief second, I looked down, and when I looked back up, I was in the back. Suddenly all of these runners were ahead of me and I could not remember getting so far behind.
Living in an honors dorm, I am surrounded by intelligence, ambition, and self-confidence. Yes, these traits are inspiring to see. But no, it doesn’t always inspire me. It’s easy to feel discouraged when you feel like you aren’t as smart as your peers. Or you feel like your peers know what they want to do with their lives and you don’t. They have goals to be neurosurgeons and biochemical engineers, and you are lying in bed wondering if you should wake up or hit the snooze button.
I know I’m not the only one who’s discouraged. When you got straight A’s and B’s in high school and then your professor says the average on the exam was a 58, you’re going to be upset. When you walk out of a testing room and realize you did one of the problems wrong before you’re even out the door, you’re going to feel frustrated. And you may feel embarrassed when you have to humble yourself in front of your professor, your TA, or a friend, and ask for help with something you just cannot understand. But I’ve realized something out of all of this.
The quote I found to ease my frustrations comes from the great mind of Albert Einstein and he said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” My brain is not the same as my roommate’s or the girl across the hall or a girl across campus. My goals, even if I have yet to realize them, are not going to be the same as anybody else’s. We need to acknowledge that we all have our own strengths, and when we see someone else’s strength shine through, we should just admire their strength instead of looking inwardly at our own perceived weakness.
We got into this school because we belong here. It doesn’t matter if our major is undeclared, if we’re struggling in a class, or if we’re doubting our ability to find a job come spring. The fear is normal, but it does not change the fact that we are intelligent and capable people. Life has taught us to compare ourselves to others so we know “where we stand.” But why can’t we look down at the ground we’re clearly standing on, and decide for ourselves where we’re at? If we truly think about it, we know the times in our lives that really allowed us to be in our element. We know what we’re passionate about and what we’re not. And none of that is dependent on what anybody else has a passion for.
I am a ditzy person. It’s a part of my personality. And I generally struggle with math and science. But, I love to write, and I’m good with foreign languages. I have a lot of practice with public speaking. I am compassionate and able to work with people and animals. I may never measure up to some of my peers, but I’m not going to bother to compare myself anyway. I am never going to hone my strengths while I am fixated on theirs. And I will never escape my weaknesses if I choose to wallow about them. We should all learn to accept that and say: “I am not smart like you are. But I am smart like I am.”
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