Hard Work and the Thirst for Perfection

Patrick - Brookline, Massachusetts
Entered on September 21, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

“What! B+! B+ in english!” This quote is from a Youtube video my friend shoved before my eyes; the video comedically portrays a stereotype that really sticks with my people, Asians, that Asians are super intelligent and that nothing less than perfection is acceptable. I’ve heard, “Your Asian, you must be good at math,” so many times, it’s like hearing, “Would you like fries with that.” I can really relate to this video because I received B+ in 7th grade social studies. What my mom says can’t be worse than that video I thought. It was worse. Words like unacceptable, not good enough, and failure ringed through my ears for the next 10 minutes. Also, last year in animation, I received another dreaded B+, and again, I was scolded. For most people, their parents would be happy with a B+, but I am not most people. Hard work, good grades, and an insatiable thirst for perfection are my building blocks, my core.

In 8th grade, I was in my school’s advanced math class, and one day after class, my teacher, Ms. Wong, asked me to help her sell T-shirts at an Asian American seminar in our auditorium. The speaker spoke about how Asian American students were becoming “invisible” by lacking the skills to interact with other humans and about the model minority myth which is to my understanding, the stereotype that all Asians are really smart, listen to teachers, and do everything. After the intense T-shirt selling, I relaxed by eating some lo-mein and General Gau’s chicken in the corner and my thoughts began spinning. His words resonated inside of me. His powerful oration is about my life. After every bite, every word, it slowly came to me and hit me like a fastball to my brain, I am part of this model minority myth.

Throughout my years at Devotion school when “real work” was assigned, I realized that I was usually around the top of my class, if not the top. Was I smarter than the other kids? Did I just care more? Was it the constant push of my parents to be the best? I’m not sure, but the pressure and the push of my parents formed a “be the best or it’s not good enough” mentality in me by the 7th grade, but I always wanted to be the best, I just wasn’t any good before. For swimming, I showed up to practice almost every day, tried my hardest; I even tried sets that were too hard for me. Keeping up with the older kids was my only thought, I didn’t want to be the slowest, the weakest link. The coach had to stop me or else I would have collapsed. I’m inferring that all my determination allowed me to win the Brookline Dolphin Swim Team’s Joan E. Doherty Most Dedicated Swimmer award my first year on the team. Ever since, I’ve been training my butt off to become the best, but every time I get better, there is always someone ahead of me.

To an outsider, my actions and beliefs might seem extreme, intense, or stressful. I’ll admit, at times, my stress levels are through the roof from being buried beneath the mounds of homework and the fear of failing and disappointing my parents. When I’m not on the verge of a total meltdown, I feel rewarded by my belief in the most simplest of forms such as an A or a free weekend to a more mental feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. My belief has gotten me to this stage, and I believe it will get me to the next level, and hopefully, the level after that.