When I was in elementary school I tried my best at sports, video games and simple games like hide and seek, but I never showed this effort in school. I hated reading, rushed through my homework, and still got A’s without trying. Things changed.
In 7th grade I had an Algebra test the second week of school. I was disappointed to see my grade dance the lines of a failing grade. My teacher bluntly explained that unless I studied or did my homework, I would fail. I went home and I did my homework like a good student. It took a long time, and even though I did not like doing it, I still did it – problem after problem. The day before the test, I made sure I studied. I reviewed problems and concepts, and I even did some practice problems. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t fail. I only missed two questions that test. I was so relieved to see the circled 94 and the usual underlined “great” right beside it. I realized that with a little effort I could succeed. I was proud of that 94. For the first time I was proud of my accomplishment – proud of my work. I had set a goal and succeeded.
Pride eventually became obsession as I worked harder in every class and became irritated every time I missed a question. Soon that 94 was not enough; I wanted perfection.
People always told me, “You already got an A. Two points is not going to make a difference. Stop worrying.” I was not worrying, nor was I pilfering for points. I was trying to get the best grade. I was trying to excel. I was striving for perfection. I wanted to prove to myself that I could overcome any test or tricky problem thrown at me.
As I walked into my last class of the day, I eagerly sat awaiting my test. 98. Without wasting time, I swiftly turned the pages searching for the red “X.” I had misread the question and could only blame myself for such a stupid mistake. I tasted another sip of aggravation. I went home that day and started working again. I was riding the endless work cycle. I got a good grade, but there was still room for improvement. There is always room for improvement and change.
It started with a 94. I began to work harder and I came to enjoy work and learning. I embraced them as a challenge and as a part of who I was. I changed from an uncaring child to a dedicated student. My desire to get an A transformed into a desire for perfection. Eventually, my work habits became rooted more firmly and work became a part of my life. It changed from petty annoyance to a daily tedious practice. I always gave my best effort so that I would be proud of my actions. I changed, and with the right start, I believe anyone can.
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