I am sitting at Starbucks and unintentionally eavesdropping on a conversation. I love listening to strangers talk, but these two girls seem eerily familiar. They are talking about high school GPAs. The one girl had a 4.0 until her sophomore year. And they are talking about their class ranking. Other kids’ GPAs will probably drop, they agree.
Rewind about 14 or 15 years, and that could have been me talking. Back in high school, that was my main focus. The GPA was everything. I wasn’t a jock, and while I enjoyed band, I wasn’t a full blown music/artsy fanatic. The GPA was my place to finish in first place. I was competitive and knew I could do it. I wanted to prove something.
But I also hated the stigma associated with being book smart. I didn’t consider myself a total nerd, just a partial one. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was a complete nerd. And I still have a good share of nerdiness in me.
Back in the mid ’90s, I didn’t date or go out and party. I was a straight arrow, completing homework on time and waitressing to pay for my 1990 Plymouth Sundance. I was the queen of bad haircuts. But somehow I was a cheerleader. Yes, it was a small school, and cheerleading didn’t have much social status.
A high GPA also secured my college future. I knew education could open many new doors, and I wanted out of the Burg.
So, I was Best of the Class on KWWL and valedictorian of my graduating class. While I enjoyed my victory, I buried it deep when I went to college. I no longer wanted to be a nerd.
It was tough to accept Bs and one or two Cs in college when I knew I could have maybe worked a little harder and earned an A. But at what price? I observed the college nerds with empathy and wished they would let go a little and enjoy themselves. Working to get into a top notch med or law school is a great goal, as is having a good GPA for grad school. But at what cost? I graduated a cum laude of some sort, and that was good enough to get into most law schools. So that was good enough for me.
I had a blast in college. And I finally told some of my closest friends my valedictorian secret – only after they knew the real me.
I still hold a few nerdy traits dear, and that’s OK. The difference now is I no longer let one facet of my life control everything else. Except the need to organize and clean. That sneaks up on me pretty often.