If you know me, you know I’m someone who isn’t made for the machine.

In the 8th grade I was accepted into the “institute” program at my high school. Before anyone even decided where they were going, they already had opinions made about each section of the institute. The “classics” institute was for the lesser of the brainiacs, and the “science” institute was for the best of the best. I never understood why the choice between language and history, and math and science made anyone less than anyone else. But alas, I made science, so to science I went.

There were very few people I knew from middle school in my classes. The new people came from all different middle schools and all different backgrounds and all different cliques. People had friendships set out before they even arrived at high school. As hard as I tried, the only people I could make friends with were the 5 other kids who were also in marching band. Little did I know, this was the least of my problems.

I met my favorite person in high school during my sophomore year. She was the coolest person in the science institute, therefore making me the (self-proclaimed) second. We liked all the same things, hung out with pretty similar people, and did the unspeakable; we smoked pot. Turns out, the lesser of the brainiacs had more fun and us two cool kids of the science institute were on our own. I remember having a conversation with people who had never spent a weekend doing anything other than studying- it killed me.

When my cool counterpart decided to leave the institute, I felt sort of alone. The machine gave me negative stigma that I was followed around with everywhere. Sure, I cared about my grades, but my best friends always made fun of me for it. I cut class, but not as much as them. They started drinking before I ever did and they were out on school nights when I was stuck inside. For their circle, this was normal. For my circle, this was anything but.

Losing your virginity isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be. I’m not sure if I’m sad about that, considering my experience of having it spread around was miserable. Imagine that- a cult of virgins mocking you for giving up the holy act. Does it matter that I’m still with the boy I lost it to four years later? Not really, because Sally at her rich girl party wants to talk about how much of a slut I am. Sally will go on to an Ivy League because of all her extracurricular activities. I wonder if the college scouts know that she gave our English teacher a pie to raise her average?

In my four years of high school, I saw people leave the institute who I genuinely grew to love. Meanwhile, I could’ve done the same for myself. Why did I stay? Did I want the title of smarty pants? Did I want the extra bonus on my GPA because of the title? Was I meant to be a part of this? I still believe the answer is no to the last question. Being a part of something that declared half of us “the lesser of the brainiacs” never settled right in my stomach. Who got to decide which of us were lesser than others? I always thought of myself as the lesser, but then I considered the other options.

The lesser of the brainiacs is the girl who lied about being bullied to get another lesser suspended. The lesser of the brainiacs is the girl who told everyone I cut myself. The lesser of the brainiacs is the girl who didn’t invite her “best friend” to her sweet 16 because her GPA wasn’t high enough. The lesser of the brainiacs is the boy who declared himself a meninist. The lesser of the brainiacs is the boy who cheated on his girlfriend while studying abroad. The lesser of the brainiacs is the girl who faked being a lesbian to purposely hurt someone. The lesser of the brainiacs is the boy who fat shamed another lesser in the locker room. The lesser of the brainiacs is the girl who tried to pay a teacher for more service credits. The lesser of the brainiacs is not me.