Vanilla is never good

Sitting on the red cushioned seats today with other young adults who have been told that they are the crème de la crème academic-wise made me realise how fleeting achievement can be and how commonplace (academic) “excellence” actually is. And therefore there really is nothing much to be proud of.

You are not remarkable — no, we are not remarkable. Many of us carry high hopes and hold ourselves in high regard just because we are in a “premier”** programme or are recipients of a good scholarship. But whatever you have achieved — if being in such a position can in fact be considered a real achievement — you can be sure that someone else has achieved more. And within your programme, there are the ones who are the better performers (and so, if I may, deserve their places more than the others) and then there are the ones who barely made/make the mark, but everyone is led to believe that they are standing on the same perceived pedestal, overlooking the majority from the same level. That they are equally “better”** than the rest of the student population. Equalisation within the elite** strata — how wonderfully ironic.

Earlier today, after going through the motions of unenthusiastic name-calling (literally) and awkward stage-crossing, I tweeted that I am “not used to not having the right to be even the teeniest bit elitist anymore”. It’s not that I enjoy elitism in itself (although I have to say that some of my peers secretly/openly revel in being able to say, “I am better than you,” to those who’re supposedly “average” and therefore below them). Rather, I miss the sense of security and assurance that I would be in slightly better stead than those who did not share my good fortune of getting into the more prestigious schools / programmes. Whether such assurance and security is false or not is another matter. What I am saying is that I am feeling a lot more insecure now about how I would perform, relative to others, once I finish university, because I have been squished into the same category as the vast majority (but I concede this is largely my own doing) — having the comforting rug suddenly pulled from under my feet after so many years is a nasty sensation. And I am still struggling to get used to it.

Of course, what success or achievement means is wholly up to the individual to define — this I have to stress. To me, academic excellence (as opposed to doing well in sports, leadership, music, community work, etc) is most important but it is something that has been gradually slipping away from me ever since junior college. Unfortunately I am currently still floating in this awful Dead Sea of Mediocrity, despite being part of a so-called “premier” programme, and the only way to get out of it is if I prove to myself that I can attain some sort of excellence again, just like I used to. That is why I have been trying to throw myself into my studies and other aspects of school life, instead of being fooled into having a dangerously false sense of security that things will be easier for me just because I am a “scholar”.

Having some sort of an achievement ASAP, academically or otherwise, will make myself feel a lot better about my present circumstances and alleviate some of the uneasiness, even if it doesn’t in fact put me in good stead for post-university.

Mediocrity is frightening. I don’t wish to stay as an “average” individual, and I pray that my future will never be soaked in such complete unremarkability as it is at the moment. Please just let me surpass my expectations once again; I will do anything it takes, I promise.

**Note: Words such as “premier”, “elite”, and “better” are used loosely here and not necessarily with the usual accompanying connotation of superiority and brazen elitism. For the most part, they reflect the general perceptions (accurate or not) shared by the people I’ve encountered.

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