Standing Out

When I was young, it was easy to stand out. I was the first-born, I was Korean, I was American, and somehow I wasn’t born with a natural filter which people mistook for being outgoing.

Then we moved to a place because there were better schools and we could actually leave the house without worrying about getting mugged. True story, my mom had her necklace lifted right off of her as she was taking a walk with me and my brother. After that, we weren’t really allowed outside the apartment.

But here’s the thing about the state of our public education system:  people know it sucks.  So you have a school that is both good and free? You bet that parents are going to be moving to your town in herds and if there aren’t enough houses or if they’re too late and real estate has gone up, they will just fake an address so that their kid can go to a good school.

And I was just overwhelmed with how many kids were labelled as super-stars. I shuttled myself around from group to group, not knowing how to fit in with these future leaders of America. They enrolled themselves into a million different activities, took prep courses on subjects a decade ahead of them, and all the while managed to dress better than me. Where did they find the time, the energy, the fashion sense at such a young age? My early writing that tried to depict what school was like always had images of rivers of people and being lost among them.

I was lost.

I think that’s why eventually, I stopped caring. Sure, I kept up my school work and participated in a few activities. But that was nothing compared to the world-saving duties my fellows would take up. I’m actually shocked when I hear about schools that don’t push their students to take a full load of Advanced Placement classes or that they weren’t constantly being told to attend a top tier school or else they were failures. I envy what kind of life that must have been, to not have been pressured to join a club because they didn’t have enough extra-curriculars to write down on their college applications. I wasn’t good enough so I stopped trying. I faded.

It’s not a bad thing to expect great things of people. But man, I wish that there were more good public schools because it’s just so easy to get lost in a school like mine. It’s gotten worse since they’ve lost budgeting. Sure, they are still pushing their students, but now there aren’t enough classes for all of them. Schools are a resource that shouldn’t be concentrated in one area. I was lucky because I could attend, but over-crowded conditions truly affected the quality of my education. I never really found a teacher that I connected with as they were overwhelmed themselves. Then there are those even less fortunate than I am who couldn’t even have what I had.

This country expect a lot from its youth. Why don’t we give them more? What is this notion that clawing your way to the top is the only way to go?


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