Everyone craves stories about heroes emerging from difficult situations with all odds stacked against them. The much less appealing story, and regrettably much more common, is that of the person with all odds stacked in their favor who does absolutely nothing about it.
At least, common as far as high school goes. In high school, mediocrity is not only common, but cool. It sounds crazy, I know. However, there is no doubt about it; overachieving is out of fashion. Once upon a time, if someone asked you about your grades and you replied “all A’s,” their response would be something like, “Wow, good for you.” In the extreme cases, you might get a “Dang, I’m so jealous!”
Recently, though, such signs of excellence are more likely to be greeted with, “Teacher’s pet,” or, “You must have no life.”
Now, to avoid making any inaccurate generalizations, I have to clarify. There are exceptions to this observation, just like any other. Of course there are students who do extremely well and are extremely liked. The increasing disdain for any sign of effort, however, is undeniable.
It’s fairly obvious that students don’t actually dislike people who do impressive things. Rather, with “slacking off” the obviously easier choice, being around people who choose to do better is uncomfortable. I will be the first to admit that it’s no fun to do the very minimal to slide by at a task, and then see someone who has done everything they possibly can to deliver their best. It is much easier, comfortable in a mass of slackers, to scoff and sneer at the overachiever.
Still, there has to be more to this bizarre phenomenon. There must be more than a vague discomfiture surrounding excellence that keeps so many from doing anything but so little.
I think that often this issue arises from the age-old human need to fit in. Heaven forbid we do something amazing that sets us apart from the crowd. This sounds backwards from the popular teen mantras that have arisen recently, I know. Phrases like, “Stand out!” “Be different!” and “Question authority!” are hugely popular. However, the meanings of the phrases have changed drastically. Different has come to refer to extreme hairstyles and unique clothing. Standing out is actually code for “do something dangerous or stupid,” and questioning authority actually refers to disregarding all concept of rules and consequences. These seemingly inspirational catch phrases are no more than flashy slogans used with the intent to give the path of least resistance — the path most frequently taken — the appearance of individuality.
I have been on both ends of the spectrum. There have been times that I have procrastinated and given my very least to a class or cause in general. It’s a comfortable place to be in, especially when I could look around and see that I wasn’t alone in my lack of care. However, I have also been on the end that requires patience and work. Every time I have found it to be a fool-proof method of finding greater satisfaction and happiness in life.
Honestly, if teenagers really want to stand out, what we should be doing is some good, old fashioned hard work. Putting effort into our endeavors, rather than watch those who do with scorn and hidden admiration, might just qualify us as the “different” that we want to be but are too afraid to work for.
It’s much easier to cheer with the rest of the masses about standing out. It’s a position that is more frequently validated and most certainly safer. However, there is no question that for those who are willing to step up to the plate, the reward is absolutely worth it.
Siera Gomez is a senior at Stansbury High School.