Here’s to the kids with parents who made them watch science documentaries instead of Spongebob; who grew up with really, really smart parents and learned to comprehend idioms and complex sentence structures before they were entirely potty-trained. Here’s to those kids who caused a ruckus at preschool because the parents were mad that their kids couldn’t read like those kids could; Those kids who went to a small-ish public school in East Memphis from kindergarten to fourth grade, and were immediately placed in a CLUE or APEX program. Those kids who didn’t fully understand why they got to leave their regular math class and go do more difficult puzzles and projects, but who soon, like it or not, came to understand that it was because they were the smartest, and they needed additional challenge that regular school just couldn’t provide. Those kids that became so used to being on top that it came as no shock when they won Terrific Kid, or had the most AR points, or got to be the star in the school program. Those kids that became so used to being on top that a single S rather than an E in art class broke them. Here’s to those kids that knew that they were smart the same way that they knew their own name.
But then those kids grow up a little, and they switched from the small-ish public school in East Memphis to a prestigious all-girls, Christian private school, and those kids walk into their first day of fifth grade with their hair braided back and their chests puffed out, beaming with confidence because that’s all they’ve ever known. And the first day does go well, because those kids impress their new teachers because they know long division and all the parts of speech. The second day goes just as well as the first, and the third day even better, and those kids just keep climbing and climbing and everything is going just right until until suddenly they hit the ceiling with a smack.
Here’s to those kids that reached their peak in the sixth grade.
After that, those kids don’t feel like Terrific Kids anymore, but the people around them don’t seem to notice the difference. Here’s to those kids who were still considered “the smart kid”, even after they stopped being the smartest because that’s always just been who they are; because they’d always known they were smart just like they’d always known their own name. Here’s to those kids whose academic lives became a game of catch-up to their own identity; those kids who just felt trapped in a title that they didn’t deserve anymore. Those kids who started falling behind because they weren’t studying, because no one ever taught them how, because no one ever needed to. Those kids who had to get used to B averages, which seems like nothing at all, but to those kids, a B may as well have been every teacher they ever had come up and tell them to their face, “you are not good enough.”
Here’s to those kids who are now in high school, and everything is starting to matter. A quiz that you bombed isn’t just a bombed quiz anymore, and it’s stressful. Here’s to those kids for whom it’s getting harder and harder to tell themselves that they are not just a grade, because their grades are starting to determine what classes they can take, what clubs they can join, what interests they pursue, what kind of person they are.
Here’s to the kids like me, who don’t indefinitely know if they are smart anymore, and who feel at times like they’re living a lie. As much as you may think otherwise, no, these feelings aren’t selfish and you’re not being overdramatic. What you’re feeling is real, and it’s really hard sometimes. All I can tell you is what I’ve been telling myself over and over again every time I think to myself, “I’m not who I used to be.” Here’s to you, here’s to us, because as much as it feels otherwise, we are still terrific kids, and we get to define what terrific means.