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Shots Fired / 3rd. Ed.

Great Expectations

An+ominous+stack+of+essays+fatefully+awaits+grading+in+Mrs.+Walters%27+English+class.
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Shots Fired / 3rd. Ed.

An ominous stack of essays fatefully awaits grading in Mrs. Walters' English class.

An ominous stack of essays fatefully awaits grading in Mrs. Walters' English class.

photo by Nate Stetson

An ominous stack of essays fatefully awaits grading in Mrs. Walters' English class.

photo by Nate Stetson

photo by Nate Stetson

An ominous stack of essays fatefully awaits grading in Mrs. Walters' English class.

Rin Swann, Reporter

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A few weeks ago, I caught what has become known as the “NASH Plague,” which left me with splitting headaches, dripping sinuses, and nausea so bad that the only cure was to curl up in a ball until I was numb from Vicks and Ibuprofen. It was also the week that I was supposed to finish writing the dreaded “AP English Research Paper,” which was worth a casual 200 points.

So after weeks of research, thinking about topics, and stressing over this essay, I wrote the paper a few days before it was due. Or, I tried to. Three days before I had to turn in my rough draft, I realized my topic was too broad and there was no way I could write a six-page paper on a twenty-page topic.

I obviously started to panic, frantically gathered my research, wrote and rewrote the paper, and revisited the librarian horrified that my topic wasn’t good enough. And in the end, I rewrote my entire paper the night before it was due while stricken with “the plague.”

You know when you’re sick and your fever-addled brain convinces you that you can do things you can’t? Like eat a bowl of ice cream or watch seven seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in one night? After I finished writing the paper, I was so exhausted that my brain convinced me I could fill in the citations for the quotes during homeroom, lunch, and study hall the next day. So I popped some Advil and crashed.

One mistake will not make or break you. But any screw up can feel that way.”

Fatal. Mistake. Minutes after I finished filling out the quotes, I realized I had done my citations wrong. So two periods before I had to turn in a two-hundred point paper, I ran to the librarian in a panic, begging her to help me fix what I had done. She did and I, thankfully, turned in a finished paper (even though I really didn’t get to proofread).

So if I turned in the paper, what’s the problem? The problem was that, even though I completed it, I felt terrible about the work I had turned in. Even though everything was fine, I still felt like a failure, like I had let everyone down, and like my future was in shambles.

Melodramatic? Definitely. But it happened, and I had to stop myself from entering an existential spiral because of it.

It wasn’t like my life was over, and it won’t be, even if I end up getting an F on that paper. The problem is I felt I was supposed to be good at English. I felt I was expected to do well and that any mistakes meant I was letting more than myself down.

So what’s the point? I’ve come to realize this isn’t a “me” problem or even an “NA” problem. Every single person has some skill that they are supposed to be “good” at. From athletes to mathletes and artists to debaters, every kid in a sport, extracurricular activity, AP class, or a job feels the pressure to do well in their element.

Take, for example, a football quarterback who fumbles the last ball of the game. It’s not a problem solely for him but for everyone as other team whispers and jeers about the failure behind their backs. In the age of social media, every follower feels like that football team watching, and every failed grade feels like that fumbled football as you move towards college.

One mistake will not make or break you. But any screw up can feel that way. Expectations are too high and in the age where everything is forever, we are taught to look perfect, be perfect, and to never, ever mess up.

Not only is that unrealistic, but it’s debilitating. And in the area we excel at, the pressure to do well is even stronger. How can other people see us as successes when we feel like failures?

Yet it’s still one fumble. One test. One shoddy, messy essay. Expectations may say you have to be perfect, but the only way to truly be successful is to screw up. A lot. You can’t learn anything if you sit stagnantly and comfortably with the expectation that you will never fail.  

You are not letting people down if you mess up. Your future will not be destroyed by one mistake. It will be built by dozens of them, so lower your own expectations. Take a bad grade here and there. And now and then, take the weight of the world off your shoulders. The only real expectations are the ones you make of yourself.

About the Writer
Rin Swann, Reporter

Rin Swann is a senior at NASH and, in her spare time, she enjoys drinking Peach Snapple, musical theater, and plotting for her inevitable take-over of the modern world. She will be attending the University of Iowa in the fall for creative writing and journalism.

1 Comment

One Response to “Shots Fired / 3rd. Ed.”

  1. Mrs. Morris (grader of said paper) on March 4th, 2019 3:16 pm

    This SNO winner is an enjoyable read–unlike your paper.

    (I kid.)

    Consistent excellence (perfectionism?) is almost impossible to maintain, so students and teachers alike should thank you for this important reminder.

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