When you plant a garden, there isn’t just one day you walk outside and all your flowers have bloomed. Your seeds take time, and their growth is staggered. It’s better that way. It’s exciting to see it come to full fruition day by day. A garden blooming all at once would be too predictable. Not all flowers grow the same. In fact, sometimes the best ones are the “late” bloomers.
The methodical way that our lives are structured has begun to bother me. I remember once being at a theater gathering in high school and an upperclassman struck up conversation with me. He asked me what electives and what level courses I was taking. He was shocked when I explained I was not taking any AP courses. I brushed it off because that was the kind of high school I went to. It seemed like everyone took AP classes, and if they didn’t, their reasoning was playing sports and being in multiple clubs. In the graduating class before mine, around 10 people went to Harvard, let alone other Ivy League universities. It was a fundamental part of our culture. I always felt like something was wrong with me. I knew that I was smart, but high school made me feel far from it. No APs, no perfect SAT score, nothing concrete to show my peers. I have since discovered the best growth isn’t visible. It’s personal and can’t be measured in traditional ways.
College has brought me into a new world of comparing myself, especially in the Park School. I watch students get internships with big–name companies and build flashy, impressive resumes that employers eat right up. It’s difficult not to get discouraged by the intensity of students at Ithaca College.
I entered Ithaca as an exploratory major before declaring IMC. I took a wide variety of classes, from poetry to coding to film courses. I built new skills, and improved my existing ones. I never even recognized improvement in myself because I was too busy measuring my growth by grades, often feeling like I fell short.
To clarify, I am extremely proud of my friends. At age 20 they have already done incredible things with their careers. From going to the Olympics with NBC to working New York Fashion Week, they’ve begun their professional escapades. Still, I can’t help but freak out when I look at their achievements and worry that I’m somehow behind.
The reality is, I’m not behind at all. Park is fast-paced and celebrates achievements. Park also falls short of reassuring their students that success comes in many shapes and sizes. The standardization of the school system is beginning to leave out room for differences. Four years of high school prepare you for taking standardized tests that decide where you go to college. Four years of college prepare you for real life. Internships are praised as an essential to the recipe, and synchronous “growth” is practically encouraged. We are pushed to graduate between 21 and 23. It all goes by in the blink of an eye, leaving no time to slow down and enjoy the ride.
I have been trying to take a step back lately and remind myself that I am a part of a bigger garden of success. In the fall I took Intro to Strategic Communications. At the end of the semester, my professor asked to use my groups final written proposal as a future example. It reassured me that I was successful not just in my major, but in my own creativity, and most importantly my potential to grow and succeed in the future. I look at myself three or four years ago and recognize that, when it comes down to it, I am a completely different person. I am changing; I am growing. Just because I refuse for my life to be standardized does not mean I am not growing. My success can be measured through achieving my own personal goals, not just the ones created for me. I celebrate that my friends have achieved what they have achieved, but I also need to learn to celebrate my own achievements without comparing them. Afterall, growth of a different nature is still growth.