To the Kids Who Try Too Hard

(OR:  Please Agree with Me on the Internet so I Feel Like Less of a Freak of Nature, Thanks.)

In highschool, there was a light at the end of the over-achiever tunnel. I thought I would work like crazy for four years, get into the perfect college – rolling in well-deserved scholarship money – and be set for life.

I did everything right. I took five AP tests in one year. I stayed up all night reading the Communist Manifesto when I could have easily made up the answers in my workbook. I agonized over every essay and every assignment.

I didn’t get into that college. Right now, I’m working two jobs while taking 15 credit hours. My first summer during college I had two internships, worked part-time, and took classes online. I pulled my first all-nighter in 9th grade, and now I do it almost once a week. The light is gone and the tunnel has turned so many times, I don’t know if I’m heading in the right direction any more.

People like me try so hard because we want a lot. We want crazy intangible things (like making an impact on society), and maybe frivolous things too (like a collection of Tolkien swords, pleasepleaseplease). We have high standards for everything, mostly ourselves, and that’s okay.

But never forget to be kind to yourself. When you’re only getting three hours of sleep a night, there isn’t anything else you can do.

You do the absolute best you can and – at the end of your day, week, year, and life – you have to be satisfied with the results of your efforts, regardless of the reward. You tried everything possible and, yeah, you probably did deserve better on that stupid gen-ed essay, but you have to disassociate yourself with whatever comes out in the end. You are your art, your effort, and your lovely, over-achieving heart, not the results.

It’s a hard thing to remember. I cried the first time I got a ‘B’ in a class, and it still stresses me out (plenty of ‘B’s’ later). You will never stop working towards your goals. You can’t. But you are whole without them; you have always been whole.

Work hard, kid, but never think less of yourself because you’re still working.

XX. Shelby Jo


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