Sometimes, being a conventionally good student sucks.
Don’t get me wrong- getting good grades feels good. But when I look at my work, especially my English and Literature essays, I feel a little disturbed.
I live and study in Singapore, where academic performance is stressed upon. And I perform well in English and Literature- always As in those, first in class even, for lit- but I feel like I’m searching for something more.
I started being bothered by my “conventionally good” essays only recently when my teacher read out a peer’s Mid-Year Exam essay. This peer of mine is excellent in English: very expressive, reads widely, talks about feminism and gay rights, and probably liberal arts. We were required to write an expository essay, and she chose a more daring question- Nature, and its influence on us. My friend talked about climbing trees, making friends with people who climb trees, riding a bicycle with her eyes closed, skirting along wide pavements in the beach, and when it was read out, we were transported to the beach. It was very beautiful.
I, on the other hand, chose to talk about life lessons learned outside of school- and it was stiflingly boring and sounded straight out of a “Model Exposition Essay” book. It was politically correct, well-structured, but it felt distasteful, and I felt strange when I was writing it because I was making up half the things in there and lying about everything.
I feel like I’ve been programmed to be always “on the safe side” and mechanical. I’m so anxious to always sticking to 5 paragraphs- an introductory paragraph, 3 points with supported views/evidence, and a concluding paragraph, followed by a very rigid structure. I must leave lines in between on my foolscap paper, two fingers spacing, write in dark ink, and God forbid I ever say something controversial or politically incorrect.
This secures me a high mark. My grammar is good, I listen to my English teacher go on about structure in class and I heed her advice. I speak good English.
But I’m boring.
And that is what makes me feel less than.
It dosen’t matter to me that I score high marks for my essay, that my friends gush about my attaining an A yet again. I frown, and I compare myself to this peer, who has managed to wow the class with her beautiful, unconventional writing. She dosen’t leave lines in between her sentences, neither does she stick to 5 paragraphs, or to the structure of what an essay should be. But it’s beautiful, refreshing writing, and when I compare her to myself, I feel incompetent.
“Why does it matter to you so much?” You might ask.
It matters to me because I’ve been living my life- my academic one, anyway, believing my English is good because I attain excellent grades. But now, I’m confused, and I’m starting to doubt my competence and flair in the subject.
I want to be fearless and fresh in my writing, and to not be afraid to break out of my comfort zone.
I want to be a good student, but I don’t want to be conventionally good anymore, or constantly politically correct, because I feel like I’m playing a game with my teachers, or maybe I’m just feeding out of their hands- hell, I don’t know. I want to be a writer who has flair, creativity and individual expression. I want to tell the truth, I don’t want to repress it, I want to write with passion, I don’t want to lie for grades, I want to be a breath of fresh air.
Good grades are admirable. I want good grades. Everyone wants good results. But I think I’m searching for something more.