The glorious and triumphant return of now-19 year old Blogger, the revival of a once-grand and dare I say influential webspace that produced daily content, and the crippling anxiety of a young woman who no longer has any time or motivation to write, and feels like any ability she had acquired in the past through repetition and sheer will alone is now slowly slipping out of her grasp. Brief history of the Blog and Blogger can be found here.

Here be personal journal entries, observations, slices of life, questions and conclusions, as well as exploration of social and political topics seen through the lens of a Malaysian Muslim, feminist, lesbian, Marxist, and horse enthusiast.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Grace

I wonder what people think of me. Like, really. I had many a philosophy to lean on when I was younger, from loving the people who like me and ignoring those who don't, to not giving a fuck altogether. Right now it's (unfortunately) something along the lines of 'tis better to be vile than vile esteemed (it's better to be bad than to have a bad reputation).

I don't really know how to say this. To start off, I guess I grew up wrong. Not terribly, not locked in-the-cupboard-under-the-stairs, not abused. But just wrong. I think I spent the first three to four years of my education being told that I was a smart girl. That's it. There really wasn't anything else to add to that. I was smart. I wasn't funny, or nice, or God forbid, friendly. I was just smart. And that really made being smart all I had in life. There wasn't anything else, literally; that was the only thing I could cling to because it was the only thing I believed in. Because when you're young and impressionable, you believe whatever people tell you and the things that they've told you time and time again are the impressions that leave the biggest imprint. Smart.

This caused two things to happen to me, as a character, as a personality and as a person: I learned how to work harder every time I failed at meeting my own expectations, and I learned to fear failure. Some people, they just accidentally had to face failure. Some from the very start, some starting a little later on. It was more like something that was just dropped onto their laps and they had no idea what to do with it. From a very young age, failure to me equaled to being stupid. Not smart. Not me, and certainly not who I was supposed to be.

When the only thing you 'have' is your intelligence, what are you left with when even that's supposedly taken away from you? So meeting failure, head on, had me in a tailspin. I didn't manage it well, not in Standard 4 and certainly not in the two years following that. Some people, from the very start, knew how to handle failure not because it was their default setting, but because they don't fear it. And I've never gotten that before, I've never understood why failure would be nothing, not even a black speck, against your pristine white reputation.  I had to force myself to like it.

I had to force myself to believe that things will be okay, that it will get better, that getting a B is not the end of the world as I knew it. It's kind of sickening, how falsely optimistic I was because even I knew, I think, deep down that the person saying all of those things, cajoling me into believing that I was more than a walking, talking brain, wasn't me. And honestly, I have no idea who that person was. I have no idea who I was at 11 or 12. It wasn't everyone else telling me those things. No. With other people, they get to hear the "you'll do better next time"s and the "it's okay, it's just a minor setback"s. I never heard that. None of that. I had to force myself to learn how to accept failure with absolutely no help from anyone else because nobody expected me to fail.

And how dumb, how pretentious and how up myself I must sound, stating that nobody expected me to fall short of perfection, or at least their idea of perfection, but it's not really about that. It's not really about them expecting me to be perfect. It's kind of just their inability to see me as anyone but that person with the straight As.

Going into secondary was hard because my position of being at the top all the time was somewhat threatened. There were people who worked harder, people with more luck. But I've never considered there to be people who were smarter. It's part ingrained in me and part because I've had to live with myself all these years that I have learned and am comfortable with myself now. And that's where I get mistaken for arrogant.

Because no matter what you say about me or my grades, I have always been able to pull it up if I so choose. If I worked hard enough. But I've realized that to do that, to go back to being that success-crazed girl who was afraid of failure, would be a waste of the potential I have as a person. I have lived in my body for fifteen years and to date, have spent the past ten years or so getting an education. What some people call arrogance, I just call comfortable in my own skin.

Last year was the turning point. It was tough because things were getting harder and life wasn't getting easier for me and nothing seemed to add up, not last year. What I've missed in giant anvil sized social cues, I've picked up on this year, but while I was living through it, I just didn't notice much. What I did notice was that I was failing. Quite a lot. And you'd be surprised, so surprised, at how far I've fallen since Form 1. I've never gotten near perfect grades ever since. I've barely even gotten straight As for a long time. And yet people still think I'm smart. And yet they still get flustered when I ask them what marks they have received and they'll reply with a, "I'm pretty sure you got higher than I did". That's society. That's the trick. That's what everyone's been worrying about for so long, since the dawn of time, I'd guess. You tell them something once and you act like it's a universal truth, the only truth and then that's it. You really are set for life.

But I realized something last year that's changed the way that I look at people now, that's changed the way that I think and everything, basically. Being told all my life that I was smart, that was one thing. Seeing the results were an entirely different matter entirely. Because there are different types of smart. Smart during exams, in class, while speaking, while writing, under pressure, street smarts, solving problems smart, and everything else; and I'm sort of good at mostly all of them. People still tell me that I'm smart to this very day but last year, I didn't need to hear it anymore to convince myself of what I've been proving to everyone for nine years. I'm smart. And while acing all my tests wasn't going to get me everywhere in life, every other facet that I had to my intelligence, that's certainly going to help.

So now I don't need to be told who I am anymore because I know. And whether it's a B or a C or a Godforsaken A staring me in the face, I really don't need it to determine my happiness anymore. I spent years upon years being scared shitless of grades lower than an A but learning to embrace failure was the best decision I've ever made in my life. I could be pulling at my hair right now, worrying about what my parents would think, or what my teachers' comments would be like, or what my peers would whisper in the deepest recesses of their minds, but I'm actively making the decision not to.

There are days when this gets hard, when I don't believe in my own capabilities as a person of worth. There are days when I am angry all the time because my parents expected more than a B. Days when I'm still scared of failure and scared of owning up to my mistakes in front of other people. Days when I feel inferior and afraid and don't want to go to school and be around people who are "better" than I am. But those are just days. Fleeting moments, barely even temporary in the grand scheme of things. A blink it and you'll miss it type of thing because at the end of the day, I'm confident.

And maybe that confidence came from years of being told so or maybe it came from my finally embracing failure as something to be celebrated and not ashamed of. Well, not celebrated in the sense that "yay, I got a B," but more like, "yay, now look at all the room and incentives for improvement!" More and more, I'm thinking that that confidence comes from my innate sense of curiosity. Because it doesn't matter if you can read the textbook in one go and memorize everything, what's life supposed to mean if you're not in want of more, if you're not curious about the thousand other branches of knowledge just waiting for you to dip your toes in? I have no special talents; I am only passionately curious.

I read. I read so much that I can't really keep track of what I read. I read newspapers as well, magazines for educational purposes, I read up on celebrities mainly because I just like them and not because I hero worship them. I go through so many phases in a year, watching so many television shows and movies and listening to so much music that some days I feel like the only way I could cope is if I had just a moment of peace and quiet. You can mistake it for arrogance, you can say that I look down on people.

But I don't find anything wrong with having confidence in yourself and putting yourself higher up than everyone else. I don't shun other people and their capabilities, I only make fun of them in the spirit of having a laugh, I help when help's needed. I am not stuck up. I am not even bitchy (I prefer the term 'sarcastic' or 'dry humor' or 'witty'). Honestly? I'm perfectly fine.

And I really, truly, honestly would love to get straight As all the time but that's not going to be my priority in life. I can't let it be. I don't like the person I was when I had focused all my energy and attention to being first. I like this person. Someone who doesn't mind telling other people that she thinks she's the smartest person she'll ever meet but has a different definition of the word smart, anyways. I’m just more in competition with myself and unfairly using others as a measurement tool. I wrote that once and I feel bad sometimes, for using people and then casting them aside once I'm done with them, but that? That's honestly just human nature.

I want to be the best. The best person I can possibly ever be. And right now, I'm studying well, I'm not a major failure to myself (and who cares about what others think?) and I'm still exploring uncharted territories and treading new waters. 

You can say what you want to say. Me, though? I'm good.

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