I got a 520 on math on the SAT!
This is the kind of confession which is so good to get out you just have to say it in one breath--IGOTFIVETWENTYONMATHONTHESAT. And just like that, a weight is lifted. Okay, 520 isn't terrible. (I have friends who would read this and shake their heads right now saying, "Yes, Adora, yes it is." I have friends who have done that, in so many winces or raised eyebrows or sympathetic displays of lip-biting if not in words.) Well, it could've been worse! 400. Or 300. 520 is, anyway, 20 points lower than what I got the first time I took the test, and many hundreds lower than what the majority of my friends got their first time. For the record, I also took Algebra II as a junior and haven't done an AP science! The latter revelation prompted a family friend to sigh sympathetically, "Ohhh honey." I got F's on some French tests and a B overall that year.
In three years of high school, I have never gotten all A's.
As the modern-day prophet Billy Mays said, "But wait! There's more!"
When I sing, my sister, gifted with perfect pitch, asks me to "please stop." (Three cheers for not singing on key! Three cheers for not knowing what the key is!) My ability to serve successfully in badminton or tennis is sporadic at best. I have never whistled, and snapped successfully once in my life. But this is all extracurricular. Let's just reemphasize--in summary, I fail, a lot, on academic things that most of my friends don't fail on!
I say all this because of two things: comments like "oh my god you're so smart Adora" and the fact that this is the season of "WOO LOOK AT ME I GOT 800's AND 5's" for so many people.
To address the first: I feel like an impostor when people say "you're so smart" with absolutely no freaking idea how insecure I can get, feeling the need to uphold the sustainability of that compliment. I've often wondered (no joke here) if anyone would like me if they realized just how inept I am at some things.
To address the second thing: if you got a good score, congratulations!! I mean that, without resentment. I got 5's on the APs I took this year (Psych, Comp Gov, US Gov, and AP Lang, so playing to my strengths a bit...) 800 on reading and 780 on writing on the SAT! But that matters as little as my 520 and sucky transcript. I'd be a hypocrite if I picked and chose. We're defined by our good numbers as little as by our bad ones.
Sure, this 520 is probably etched into my mind the same way runners know their marathon times. It's a part of me. But it's a tiny part of me, because hopefully in my fifteen years I've learned at least that I should live a life complete enough (even as the work in progress that it is) that I have cooler failures to dwell on and better successes to treasure than 520s or 5s. Some of the smartest people I know got terrible SAT scores. Even as I get incredibly stressed out, like all soon-to-be high school seniors at this time of year, I have to remember: tests are taken, scores are given, acceptances are mailed, and life goes on!
When I was younger, speaking at the Entertainment Gathering conference in Monterey, CA, I delivered a talk about education, testing, and creativity--the kind you probably hear a lot, nowadays. Afterwards, the author Amy Tan, of Joy Luck Club fame, walked up to me. I died a little bit from fangirling. This was AMY TAN, after all, AMY TAN with her little-Chinese-lady haircut, dark red lipstick, and intimidatingly large handbag. She said that my speech had resonated with her. (Swoon.) And then she added, "I got a terrible score on my SAT!"
I could turn this into a blog post about testing culture and underlying issues in education or the like, but what I'm really trying to say is this: a lot of you have secret failures. Maybe not things like my 520, but the kinds of things you switch the topic deftly to avoid or live in dread of anyone but your closest friends knowing. You're not alone. You never have been. It gets aggravating, scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed and seeing pictures of beautiful people with their perfect scores and happy lives--the lithe runners taking all APs, the social butterflies on dance team who win medals in speech and debate, the math kids who got into Stanford and Harvard AND landed hot prom dates--but none of us have it all figured out. I have incredibly accomplished contemporaries who consistently make me feel like an underachiever, but their struggles also helped me realize that every win has its flipside.
In the end, if I love you, I love you no matter what your resume says or what you got on the SAT or how fast you run a mile or how well you write a story or any number of things at which it is entirely possible to fail at--in fact, I love you knowing those failures.
Is it too much to ask for the same?