The Perfect Student
We all know or knew a “perfect” student. You know the type: good athlete, straight A’s and deeply involved in extra-curricular activities. They always seem to have it together, like nothing could deter them. Wickedly talented with strong ambition is how I would describe them.
Often, I’d fall into the trap of comparing myself to them, I’d say “why can’t I be that smart?” or “how come they’re always partying and still manage to get A’s?”. I couldn’t figure it out, I simply came to the conclusion that they were gifted and knew how to make the system work to their advantage. I’m not saying that we can’t emulate these students, as I’ve found researching study techniques and discipline exercises have been helpful in improving my success rate with my course work. Unfortunately, I never seem to achieve their trifecta of social life, good grades and adequate sleep. It seems one always suffers, or sometimes all, if you’re having a particularly rough time.
Have you ever paused to consider whether they enjoy their status as a near perfect student? Probably not, if I’m guessing correctly. Why would anyone with a seemingly perfectly balanced life harbour any negativity? It seems ludicrous until you start researching teen and young adult suicides and you realize that perfect students sometimes die by suicide. On the surface it seems preposterous; a successful student dying by suicide.
I remember a classmate of mine earning 100% for her math exam, and my math teacher commented “You know the thing about placing so high? Unless you maintain that level, the only way you can go is down. We already know what you’re capable of, you have maintain that expectation now.” It seemed like such a dark thing to say to a student, especially one who had performed well and deserved praise, but he was right. Once people come to expect excellence from you, you bear the burden of maintaining that excellence.
This is the detriment of perfect students; the burden of maintaining excellence. No one is perfect, even if they seem perfect. Even parents, as well intentioned as they are, add to this burden.
When a straight-A student brings home their first B, they are greeted with concern and scrutiny. Perhaps they never get a B, they just live in fear and anxiety of receiving one someday. The burden of possibly disappointing everyone becomes suffocating, until they feel like death is the only escape, because there is no such thing as perfection in death as the dead do not care.
The stress of school and exams of students today is nothing compared to yesteryear. As a student I am expected to do internships, community service and socialising, all while maintaining good grades. To achieve this, I neglect sleep and familial relationships, to the detriment of my mental health and stability. It cannot go on this way, something has got to give. I wish I had some sage advice, but I don’t. Unfortunately, I have to run the rat race just like everyone else, I just hope I don’t burn out. At the very least, I can say it is extremely important to have a friend who supports and loves you, one who does not care what grades you get as long as you’re trying your best. I had to teach myself that; it’s not the results that matter, but how hard I worked for it.