“I am not my degree”

If you look at the life I’ve lived until today, you’d probably sum it up with one word: smart. One of my clearest memories from elementary school was a project we did in fourth grade. We wrote a list of everyone in the class and had to write one nice thing about every student. Then, our teachers took our individual lists and compiled them, so that we each got a list of all the complements that the other students had written about us. I remember putting thought into my list, thinking of my classmates’ character traits and personalities. I was so excited to see what they thought of me, what they had written. There were 23 students in the class. When I got my list, I saw 22 near-identical phrases: “You are smart.”

It would be easy to say that my academic achievements have molded me into who I am today, but it’s actually my life which has molded my academics. Growing up, when my terminally-ill mother would go to the hospital–which was often–I would dive into my studies, reading everything I could get my hands on and completing every homework assignment to perfection. I re-read my class notes over and over, just to take my mind off of why I was home alone that night. My work ethic and love of learning was born from the ashes of my mother’s illness, not from some miraculous stroke of genius.

My biggest fear is that I’ll only be remembered in the role into which I’ve been typecast: the smart, bookish girl who gets an A on every test. I’m scared that my mark on the world will have nothing to do with my loyalty, my relationships, or my struggles, but rather on a label that has followed me since I was young. I want to show the world what I have to offer, and I want people to know that what I be is not contained by my transcript or college degree.