This I Believe

Jacob - Kalamazoo, Michigan
Entered on April 18, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: work

I was always one of those kids that just got good grades—always. It didn’t matter how little or how hard I tried, because at the end of the day I always ended up with one of those two letters that appear at the beginning of the alphabet. It wasn’t the end-all-be-all if I didn’t do well. I wasn’t threatened with beatings or even bribed with money. On the contrary, there was no money to be bribed with, and there was no need for threats because I always got it done. Some call it intelligence, cockiness, or even luck, but the truth of the matter is that it’s just the will to finish. I believe that the key in life, and in everything, is to finish and survive; always.

I cruised through elementary school, middle school, and my freshman year of high school this way. The effort was always quantitative, and almost never qualitative, because mere completion is so statistically uncommon that a finished work of any degree will trump nothing any day of the week. By living each moment in life, and tackling each of the smallest, largest obstacles through a satisfactorily level of completion one can deliver a fulfilled life.

This credence was tested abruptly my sophomore year of high school. I started off the first quarter of Honors English just barely clinging to a D. The summer weather hadn’t subsided, and I hadn’t shifted my focus with the season yet either. I was in a class with very wealthy, very intelligent students, and I felt my presence there proved that I was just as good. One day my teacher pulled me aside and asked if I believed I had chosen too difficult of a class that year. I was dumfounded, and very angry, and I replied defiantly that I did belong in the class. He just said, “OK. Prove it then.”

No one had ever questioned my intelligence or ability until that time, and there was nothing I could have said at that moment to convince him. A challenge like that, a challenge like life can’t be solved with words. It takes action. I immediately shifted gears and got to work that semester. It was a challenge because I was also in the middle of my soccer season, but I played hard, studied late, and slept very little. At the end of the semester two separate teachers gave me the school award for “Most Improved Student” in two classes. One of those teachers was my English teacher, and he called me into his office one day to congratulate me. He said, “I have never been so proud to be so wrong.” Those words will stay with me forever. We were ranked by grade point in his class, and I had risen from last—to first in one semester. I rose to the occasion. Since then, I have always remembered that it isn’t necessarily what we are capable of that makes us who we are. It is what we do, and what we accomplish, that makes us who we will become. This, I believe.