I remember once in the fourth grade (that was eight years ago, wow) my teacher Mrs. Scott had handed our class back some random papers. The papers we had written were cute, petite essays about (I think) our families and why we should love our relatives. The essays might have been about the Fourth of July. (The Fourth of July seems really pertinent to this story for some reason.) Anyway, I had received an “A” on my paper with practically no red marks or corrections. When I say “practically no”, I mean one. One correction on an entire fourth-grade level story.
I was a genius.
A fourth grader with literary skills on par with Shakespeare. More or less. I captured the essence of my family’s values with mere two (sometimes three) syllable words. My imagery brought life to every printed letter, perfectly depicting my bilingual mother and her odd tendencies to make kimchi on the linoleum kitchen floor. The “A” I received was well-earned.
Or so I thought.
I was one of the very few students to receive an “A”. Mrs. Scott also preferred me to many of my peers. I took pride in being one of her favorites. (Yes, yes, I know favoritism is looked down upon in schools.) But what knocked me down from my golden pedestal, which went as high as my fourth-grade ego would allow, was the silence of my name that day in class. Mrs. Scott did not say my name.
She did not say my name after these precise sentences: “You guys can’t write essays like how you’re going to talk. It’s different. It has to be professional. Like Sam’s paper, Resha’s paper.”
And Kristen’s paper?
I was so hopeful. Nothing came.
Do you know how heartbreaking that moment was? Sure, maybe she might have forgotten to mention me. Sure, maybe she did not want to mention me too many times in class, to disprove her favoritism. But looking at this from a young child’s point of view, the non-uttering of my name meant that my paper was not worthy of her praise, not worthy of being an example to my friends and peers. I was “simple”, “normal”. I wasn’t number one.
Winning first place or being number one is not everything, and I understand that now. However, that memory
scarred scars me. That memory is a constant reminder that no matter what, I can not reach the top. There will always be someone ahead of me. On the other hand, there is sure to be someone behind me as well. But for a competitive, anxious, hormone-struck senior girl from a privileged Asian family, being not number one is equal to being last. And I hate being last.
If you’ve learned nothing from this post, I apologize for beating around the bush. All I’m trying to say is that memories shape the future. (Say what? You wrote 470 words to tell me something I already know?) Yes. Yes, I did.
As a senior in high school, all I dream and hope for is to get accepted into my dream college. Do you know what motivates me to work harder? That damn Mrs. Scott who didn’t mention my name for one day in class on one stinking paper about family. So I dedicate this post to my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Scott, nearly eight years later. Thank you for unintentionally knocking me down a peg because, let’s face it, we aren’t perfect. In fact, we are all very, very far from being perfect. However, as we continue to live our lives, we sure as hell will try to be that number one, won’t we? I know I will.