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Intelligence and scholastic achievement: that was supposed to be my destiny. In first grade, the school psychologist told me that my IQ was genius level. At first they were right; I stood out in class and achieved high grades on all of my tests and projects. This precocity began to shape my actual personality and everyone knew me as “the smart kid”. I became my intelligence and high grades. Middle school proved to be just as easy as elementary school was. I consistently attained high grades without studying or even paying attention for that matter; I felt invincible. My next move was to take my talents to private high school since my initial 8 years of schooling were a breeze. I made it in easily enough, but I remember those intimidating, grey walls staring me in the face as I walked through the halls. Even still, I remained confident that I could take on any class and conquer it. My confidence then revealed itself as an Achilles heel. The homework came by the truckload and the tests were deadly; neglecting to study resulted in mediocre grades.  Rarely did I get a grade above 60 on my essays. That really hurt. I had always been told I was a good writer and English had always been forte, but now that was taken from me as well. My writing became a liability that could only be balanced out by high test scores. At the end of the first semester, my grades were decidedly average, a trend that continued for two years as I struggled to figure out how to do well in this harsh new environment. My confidence and my identity were taken out in one fell swoop. How could I not excel when I had professionals tell me that I was a genius, at age six no less?  Maybe I deserved it for my arrogance. Worst of all, I began to doubt myself. Nightmares of failing courses and being academically lost began to fill my head as I continued to struggle. I think I later found out that you can’t really do anything well if you aren’t confident, ironically enough. Even blind confidence is valuable, because it inspires significant effort. If I believe I can do something, then I should attempt to give it my all. Foolish as it may sound; my sheer persistence began to work out. I had signed up AP US History and Honors English III my junior year, which were supposed to be absolute beasts of classes-and they were. Still, I attacked the courses with a relentless effort and ferocity that I had lacked in the past. The struggle was considerable; studying sessions often extended into midnight. Little by little, however, the effort and confidence I had put towards my classes developed into solid formulas for success. I received A’s in all of my courses at some point in the year, and thrived in my History and English courses, despite the bumps along the way. Meeting my old friend “success” again was nice, but rather than inspiring happiness it inspired hunger. I was getting close to the level of the peers I had wanted so desperately to catch up to. Sure, there were guys in my class that could finesse their way through college level classes the way I had in middle school, but I didn’t care anymore. It felt damn good to match them academically. Achilles had not returned, and he likely never will, but the heel that ailed him was now supported by a pillar of aggressive diligence. During my time in private school, my confidence and identity had suffered, but I’m glad for the experience. I learned the value of hard work, and learned never to get complacent. It was a role reversal, but I welcomed it. The ever-controversial emcee 50 cent said it best, “hate it or love it, the underdog’s on top”.
 
 
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