Handling errors shows character

Ellis Becker
Ellis Becker

Five. That’s the number of emotional breakdowns I’ve had so far two months into the school year. Although only three of them have been about academic stress, that’s already too many. Whenever I get back an assignment where the grade I receive is worse than what I hoped it would be, a piece of me breaks, and so far, I’ve shattered three times.

This shattering mostly consists of me questioning a lot of choices I have made and my own capabilities, so it’s not exactly pleasant. I hate doing this. I hate mentally beating myself up, but there’s nothing I can do.

The worst part is that whenever I have a breakdown, I always end up feeling even worse about having it in the first place because it shouldn’t be happening. It’s a vicious cycle that I can’t escape, even if the solution is snapping out of it to look around, because the truth is, this is happening to my classmates as well.

Overstressing over grades isn’t just me, and it shouldn’t carry this much weight.

I know a lot of my classmates’ grades have dropped since last year. It’s become a conversation topic, and they’re worried, too. Some aren’t taking it as seriously as I am, but for those who are, you aren’t alone.

The point is, I think that many students, myself included, are taking their grades much too seriously. First quarter grades aren’t as much a measure of how well you are absorbing information, or even remotely what your final grade will be like, as they are a measure of how you are handling the transition from the Middle School to the Upper School.

This is the reason why I don’t think I should be suffering from a breakdown bi-monthly: because I don’t think that any of us should be carrying this much stress over grades this early in the year. Grades should be used as a tool to figure out how you can learn and grow as a student. Imagine them like a glorified pros and cons list. “Here is what you are doing right. Great job! Now here is what you need to work on.” It should not be, “These are your grades. These aren’t good enough, so you are an awful person.”

Although this seems like overdramatizing opposite ends of the spectrum, this is what it has seemed like to me during these breakdowns. This is the tipping point, the point at which it stops becoming, “I’ll do better next time,” and it starts to become, “Will I make it to next time?” Although it is only temporary, it feels like each time this happens it chips away at me.

A nervous or mental breakdown can be defined as a stressful situation in which one becomes temporarily unable to function, which occurs when life’s demands become physically or emotionally overwhelming.

I have gone through this. I have felt this. I’ve had a temporary psychiatric disorder sparked by severe stress to the point where I have keeled over in the parking lot, having trouble breathing, unable to function.

In this never-ending cycle of stress, I march forward, through thick, thin and some more thick. I don’t know if it will get better, but to reemphasize my point, it should get better because there is no logical reason for it to have happened in the first place. But for now, there isn’t much I can do but to put my head down and charge through.

That is what Harvard-Westlake is about. It is about perseverance. It is about helping others when they are down and getting picked up when it’s your turn to stumble. So as you continue to mull over first quarter grades, learn from them. Don’t stress over them.

Making mistakes is a part of life. It doesn’t matter if those mistakes happen during the first quarter, or on the SAT.

The way one handles those errors shows true character. We should learn from our mistakes and forgive ourselves for anything that may happen, especially for our first quarter grades. That is what life is about. Life is about learning, but a different type of learning. Learning that is more than sitting in a class and listening to a lecture, a learning that knocks you down. The best way to study for the exam is to pick yourself back up.

If life gives you an “F” the first quarter in your “Learning 101 class,” you can get extra credit by not worrying about it.

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