We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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No one goes through life without hitting rock bottom at least once. In high school, I had what felt like my first mental breakdown. It was the first time I experienced pressure at that level. I was stressed to the point where everything annoyed me as I finished each assignment. During my sophomore year of high school. I got the lowest grade I’ve ever gotten on a test. It was too much. 

I am the middle child in my family and I hate it. People always have such a high expectation for me and because of this, I’ve always had high expectations for myself. I am always compared to my older sister, who is a genius. I also have a younger brother, so I have to be a good example for him. I am expected to be someone he can look up to and who can also take care of him. My mom would brag to her friends about me and because of this, I became very sensitive to what people thought of me. I would act timidly and perfectly in front of people so I didn’t reveal the fact that I was the complete opposite.

As a middle child, I was expected to be successful like my sister. I was expected to be as smart as her if not smarter. This was not really a problem because I was a fast learner. I was learning multiplication when kids my age were learning how to add and subtract. I helped as often as possible so I was seen as responsible. I never complained verbally to anyone so everyone thought I was mature. I did everything that was expected of me and by doing so, I was being molded into what everyone wanted me to be.

As I grew older, my responsibilities and expectations increased. My sister was in college by the time I was in middle school. I was expected to walk my brother home from school, cook lunch for the both of us, then help him with his homework like a perfect sister. However, that never seemed to be enough. My parents were never satisfied with my grades even though they were beyond average. I was also blamed whenever my brother didn’t ace his exams even though he was the one to refuse my help. On the surface I was a perfect kid, but I suffered silently. All I could do was take in what they said and accept it for truth. 

There is a saying, “When you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up.” After I failed the test my sophomore year, I cried. I felt devastated and anxious. I felt like I failed everyone’s expectations. How was I going to explain the sudden drop in my grade? How would my brother see me? I was so disappointed in myself that I felt broken. When I told my sister about it, she revealed something that I never expected. The first test she took during her sophomore year of high school, she received a grade so low that the teacher asked if she wanted to drop a level. I was shocked because to me she was perfect. My sister told me that I need to stop being so hard on myself. It’s good to have high aspirations but it’s okay if I don’t always meet them as long I am doing the best I can. 

Being a middle child has taught me that no one is perfect and no one will ever be perfect. You can never satisfy everyone and that is a fact. Everyone has flaws and everyone will fail at least once in their life. Now, I do my best to live my life knowing and accepting myself and my limits - I will never let others dictate who I am again.

© Donna Chen. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.