I’m not really in a writing mood; I’m only doing this because I can’t think of anything else to do. So excuse the poor writing.
Recently I’ve noticed a common problem in Arcadia. Well, I guess I had noticed it before, because I deal with it frequently, but I thought it was just me. However, through random discussions as well as reading stuff from people on facebook and stuff, it seems that many people in Arcadia suffer from it. Perhaps I am pessmisticly exxagerating, but I think it is possible that this is a major problem in this school.
As we all know, AHS is considered a really high-achieving school. Copy and paste from wikipedia:
But we don’t need wikipedia to tell us this, we can see it everyday. It seems that anywhere you go in the school, you can hear of some person or some group accomplishing some amazing feat of academics or extracurricular activity, whether it’s doing really well on some national physics test, or winning some athletic award, or getting a 4.0 GPA while taking 23 APs. Maybe there’s a sense of school pride at this, or maybe you genuinely feel happy for them. I’m sure we’ve been somewhat dulled to amazement from all these accomplishments, just because they are so common around here, but I’m sure we still do feel at least some sense of awe it. But at the same time, somebody else doing something remarkable means that we are not the ones doing it.
In Arcadia, as you look at all the great accomplishments around you, it seems very easy to feel inferior. It seems that everyone is doing many things, doing them very well, and still getting twice the amount of sleep as you. This is quote from a AHS student, on his tumblr (which is apparently some blog thingy):
“I always blamed a lack of time as my inability to participate in sports, even for leisure, and yet I have seen quite a few people taking more AP’s than me, engaged in Band or Orchestra activities, dedicated to numerous extracurricular activities, have time for sports and actually enjoying themselves, and still sleep before midnight. I don’t know, I can’t even say I have the right to envy that…but that really strikes a blow across myself. What is wrong with me, with how I manage my life, that I would drive myself into such a mess and failure that I am right now?”
This is not just an isolated rant from a random depressed guy, though, not only because the person who wrote this seems quite sane to me, but also because I often feel very much the same, and I can’t guarantee it, but I think that others at the school feel the same way. With all the talk that goes on about the achievment of others, it just seems nearly impossible to not feel envious of others. With the culture of this school, values are focused on achievement, whether academically or otherwise, and with so much of it going around, it seems natural to wonder why you aren’t doing a larger part of it.
And of course, Asian parenting does not help whatsoever. I think we all know of our parents making comparisons to other students at the school. They are able to somehow pick up information about the accomplishments of your peers, whether it’s through something you told them, or through their discussions with other parents. They then list off these things others do, and point out that you have done none of this. If you weren’t already brewing in misery of inferiority before, it is very difficult to not do so after this Asian parenting tactic.
So basically, the whole Arcadia atmosphere contributes to this feeling, both through our standards and the infamous Asian parenting that we so often discuss on here. And what is the effect of this feeling? I’m going to go back to the previously referenced post, because somehow his writing is able to describe my feelings better than anything I can write right now.
“I won’t even get into my inferiority lapse over higher education…that’s probably the worst part. I will just leave it at that all the competition and lack of proper motivation on my own part has established a deteriorating cycle. I don’t know…it seems that I have lost my faith and dedication in striving for the best after regarding myself as increasingly inferior among the masses of students with far more brilliant minds and a whole lot more commitment and outlook. And what do I do? I bawl over increasing standards, procrastinate, never learn from my own lessons, exchange sleep time for useless tasks completely irrelevant to my goals, and lose more confidence at the outcome of failure. And the cycle repeats itself. “
Some people are motivated by seeing the success of others. Michael Jordan is often used as an example. Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team his freshman year, but rather than give up, he became motivated by seeing the others on the team and not him, and worked hard until he not only made the team, but became the greatest basketball player ever. But there’s a reason why he is Michael Jordan, and others aren’t.
Maybe people like that are just naturally more competitive, or strong-willed. Maybe they just do naturally have more talent. But whatever the reason, the fact is that the average high school student in Arcadia, to the dismay of their Asian parents, is not going to look around, see all the success around them, and become extremely motivated to achieve something even greater than that. Instead, the natural response is to feel incompetent, and want to give up. Yes, it’s not the “right” thing to do, and I’m sure there are plenty of motivational talks out there to try and stop people from doing so, but many times for us, I guess there just doesn’t seem to be any other option.
Interestingly, when I discussed this post with the author of it, he could not understand why I felt the same way as him, citing my SAT score. At the same time, I felt that he should not feel this way, in fact, he is someone I often feel jealous of, as he has a clear passion in something, and also happens to be very good at it. He also happens to be very successful romantically, something that I, of course, have no experience with.
I’m not totally sure what this says. I guess maybe it shows that nobody here is really immune from this feeling of inferiority, no matter how accomplished someone may look to others. Whether it’s our honest observations, or a distortion of reality, we see the world around us, and do not like it. The competitive enviroment that we’ve grown up in has been largely responsible for our successes (even if we feel others have many more, we all have some), but at the same time, this enviroment is a key cause of our depression. This post is of course, nothing scientific, and mostly just scattered rambling, but I do feel that this is one of the biggest problems among our student body. I don’t know what exactly the effects of it are, in the present or the future. Maybe it’s just typical teenage angst, or maybe it is indeed something that plagues Arcadia High School.
Either way, this feeling of inferiority doesn’t seem healthy for anybody. Maybe in the short term, or in the past, this would work in motivating students, to try and match or surpass the accomplishments of their peers. Maybe this is why Asian parents so often decided to compare their kids to others, because it seemed to bring results. But by this point, it seems to just cause much emotional distress. It results in a jaded view of the world, where there doesn’t seem to be much opportunity for success, and where one can never live up to the standards set by others.
From an IM convo with somebody else, I’m not sure if he wants me to divulge his identity…
” idk its like i also feel like im not gonna achieve anything in life
and i have no purpose
it gets depressing though
maybe thats why i’m failing
cuz i’ve lost my motivation”
Not all the blame belongs to the Asian parents. It seems like that we have always tried to compete with each other, from elementary school, through middle school, and now. Maybe many of us had no real goal other than the vague one of “doing well”, and surpassing everybody else along the way, rather than having any true motivation for something. Anyway, enough speculating. Whatever the reason, our motivation and hope seems to be being drained. I don’t know what will become of this. Perhaps it is just a phase, and we’ll be fine. Or maybe not.
To again quote the blog post rather than writing something myself:
“Maybe it’s just a lapse…maybe these feelings just come and go…maybe this will soon pass and I can continue on with my life…but I am really just exhausted of hope and confidence as of now.”
I guess we’ll just have to see what becomes of this. Maybe I shouldn’t generalize the whole student body. I don’t know exactly how many people share these feelings of inferiority and depression, and how many are fine with everything.
Well, anway, one of the frequent things I’ve heard about the Arcadian atmosphere, one that is said by adults, perhaps former Arcadia High students themselves, is that this enviroment, if nothing else will at least prepare you for college. After dealing with all the competitivness early on, it is much easier to deal with an enviroment outside of this one.
I agree. This atmosphere will prepare you for college. Unfortunately, it is likely this is going to be college at UC Riverside, because your college application just doesn’t compare with everyone else’s.
Yeah, I almost went for the optmistic ending, but that just wasn’t going to happen. And again, yeah, this is probably the most poorly written post I’ve done in a while.