Verbatim: Meeting expectations is different than being successful

Posted: Monday, January 24, 2011

The instant someone is labeled a "smart kid," a thousand expectations appear. "Smart kids" take honors and AP classes. "Smart kids" have 4.0s. "Smart kids" score well on tests. Then senior year rolls around, and the "smart kids" get in to good colleges.

Plug in any label, say talented athletes, then out comes another list of expectations. Talented athletes get scholarships, or talented athletes go on to play Division 1 sports.

These expectations derived from some arbitrary label come to define us. Not only that, we begin to burden our peers with these expectations. We label our peers as "smart kids" or "talented" and then we are the ones that confer the unrealistic expectations. We are the ones telling them they will play Division 1 with a full ride scholarship because, hey, that's what top athletes do.

It is not generalized high expectations from parents and teachers that cause this. Without a doubt, these expectations have driven me to achieve much more. What are truly detrimental are the preconceived notions we place on our peers of what "success" actually is.

It is often hard to realize that all talented people do not have the same dream. Some people want to live in a small town and start a coffee shop, while others want to go to expensive colleges and become investment bankers. Just because someone is an athlete does not mean they have to play in college, but we assume all talented athletes have the same dream. Just because a person is intelligent does not mean they need to go to an Ivy League school. So why do we assume that is what all intelligent people want?

Where is that "smart kid" when college applications roll around? I know where I am. I am sitting here thinking that the hardest thing about applying to college is not the possibility of rejection; it is the possibility of having to tell everyone "I didn't get in." I am more scared of letting everyone else down, of not fitting in to their expectations, than I am of letting myself down. I know college admissions are a game, and I know I will be happy wherever I go, so a couple of rejection letters do not scare me. But I am scared everyone will think I didn't succeed just because they don't understand my idea of success is not the same as theirs.

Success does not have to mean going to Harvard or playing college football, no matter how smart or talented a person is. Success is finding what we love and being happy doing it. Every talented person does not have the same dream, so they should not all be burdened with the same expectations.

This column is the opinion of Angela Ramponi, a senior at Soldotna High School.

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