Not first, but not worst

By Derek Schlom

I like to write, but I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly good writer. I don’t necessarily feel this way because I’m not actually a good writer (I would never be so presumptuous, or obnoxious, as to assert that I am). I just know that there is always someone better. It’s my warped perspective on the transitive property: if someone else writes “better” than I do, then I must not be good.

Earlier this year, I experimented with a blog in which I spouted off about current events and pop culture- just as a personal outlet, I told myself, not because I’m delusional enough to think that what I write would actually mean something to someone, or that people would care about what I write. As one of my first posts, I wrote my take on why poor singers feel the need to also become poor actresses and vice versa.

The next day, one of my favorite blogs, written by professional journalists with years of training and experience, featured a post on practically the same topic…but it was better. Way better. The language was crisper, the examples stronger, the points clearer. I had been one-upped. My take obviously didn’t matter if someone else’s take was more accurate, or funnier. My nascent blog was aborted. The Tumblr account still exists, but I haven’t updated it in months.

Obviously, I have some issues. To be honest, though I take credit for my own irrational feelings of ineptitude, I think that Harvard-Westlake has conditioned me to compare myself to others rather than to enjoy and appreciate my own work for what it is- not intentionally, of course, but that’s just the way it is. I’ve never had the highest grades, because it’s impossible to have the highest grades at this school. The ultimate achievement is always out of reach, and second (or, I would estimate, 201st place) is never good enough.

The competitive nature of the student body here is, it has been said before, a blessing and a curse: we push each other to be the best, but only a select few reach the pinnacle. The inferiority complex I have imposed upon myself as a result of this, hopefully, will fade, as I learn to exploit the benefits of what I’ve learned here and avoid the emotional pitfalls of attending a school where I was never close to the top of the class. But, for now, all I can do is attempt to succeed for my own satisfaction, in college and in life. At the moment, that’s good enough. The blogging can come later.