I think I’ve had such a hard time adjusting to Georgetown because I used to be “that” girl: wrapped up in doing everything, trying to be the best, getting perfect grades, running around chasing after this transparent dream of success and this idea of being the model Type A figure. When I go to class and look around, all I can see are cardboard cutouts of my past self—little robots programmed into the system, raised to do what they’re told, raised to be here, at this knock-off Ivy League school, doing all their homework and telling everyone exactly what they want to hear.
I don’t know if I was raised like that, but I certainly acted the part for a long time. Everything was going swimmingly for about the first fourteen years of my life (okay, I don’t know that I would say it was going that great, but I was still the teacher’s pet, the perfect girl, everything everyone wanted me to be). And then I got to high school, and suddenly I didn’t know anyone. Everyone I had gone to middle school with (albeit, I went to three different middle schools in three years) had ended up at another high school. It was just me. And I realized that I didn’t want to be that girl anymore. Or at least, I wanted to try a little experiment.
When I went to high school, I put on a mask. I quieted down. I sat in the back and took notes not only on my classes, but the way people around me interacted and what roles people were expected to fill and who filled them. I wouldn’t say I had no friends, but yeah, I was the new girl so that was more or less accurate, for a while anyway.
When the teacher asked a question, instead of raising my hand and answering, I learned to sit silently and wait. I learned about this new part of class, one where everyone sits and fidgets, avoiding the teacher’s probing gaze, not wanting to be the victim of the question. But that’s what I had always loved. I loved having the answer. I loved answering questions and perpetuating knowledge. I now know that I was perpetuating the system.
I eventually thought that it was this “chill” new process that we were buying into. We all knew the answers, right? We were just too “cool” to raise our hands. We didn’t want to look overeager or show-off, so we just waited. Sometimes the teacher would call on us, and we would give an answer, and sometimes we would wait an indefinite amount of time before tentatively shrugging a hand up and rescuing the poor teacher from purgatory.
But two years later, I finally realized that I no longer knew the answers. If the teacher called on me, all I could do was shrug and guess. Somewhere between being studied up and sharp and playing it cool in high school, I had lost that spark of memory that allowed me to excel.
I think I knew then that the system of education had failed me. If someone like me, who was so bright and so eager and so downright thirsty for knowledge, had slipped through the cracks because I had decided to take a passive role in the classroom, I knew the system was failing everyone. What hope did the rest of them have when the person who actually wanted to be there was falling?
It was at some point in there that I realized I didn’t buy it anymore. I didn’t want to put up with incompetent teachers, busy work, a curriculum that wasn’t challenging enough for me, and people who just encouraged me to merely pass and not do my best. No one actually wanted me to succeed; that much was obvious. The proof was in the impersonal setting of the classrooms every day and the apathy towards anyone’s potential. It was simply a job, the goal was graduation, and the price was my love for learning. The price was my idealism in life and my blind compliance. It’s a price that’s been too much.
Now I’m here and I don’t know if this is the life I want to lead. In all my years, I never stopped to ask myself if this was truly what I wanted or if it was just what I had been conditioned to want—what other people expected me to want.
I dare you to ask yourself the same questions. Are you making the same mistakes? Are you another cog in the machine? Is this who you really want to be?
Cyrena Touros is a freshman in the College. The Superscript appears every other Sunday at thehoya.com.