The me that created and named this blog three years ago was a vastly different me than the one that stands before the world today. My love of the written words and music have deepened. My perception of society has become more radical and opinionated. My relationships with others have been challenged and forged with greater certitude.
Yet, if there is one thing that I didn’t try nor want to change, it was my loyalty to the value of my blog’s title: The Humble Watermelon. I think in Grade 8 and Grade 9, I did a pretty good job of staying humble, all egotistic irony aside. Though I can only speak through my first-person perspective, I believe I succeeded in not boasting about my marks, managing my participation reasonably, and not get to nosey in other people’s academic progress. And so, humbleness, according to the old me, was to not rub a good mark in other people’s faces, and not over-exposing yourself in class when knowledge or answers could be shared.
This school year was the game changer. I went from an arguably secluded French high school with barely 200 students, to being enrolled in the IB Program in a 1300+ students high school in the middle of a bustling corner of Winnipeg. Suddenly, I was surrounded by many extremely intelligent, driven, and cultured classmates. I am in no way saying that my classmates from my old French high school weren’t, but they belonged on a more subtle, almost naive level of those characters. Several of my new classmates were incredibly talented, both academically and in their own fields of passion, and suddenly, my expectations for myself had to be strongly questioned.
For over 6 years, I had no true competitor in my French schools. I did my work, said what I had to say, and rose to the top of the class. Of course, I did put a lot of effort and sought for excellence, but one could say they were organically driven. However, with the newfound exposure to substantial competition these last two school semesters (and especially the latest one), my work ethics and mental outlook were questioned. This shift of attitude could be represented in two stages:
Stage 1 – growing feeling of competition towards classmates
I became more concerned about my classmates’ marks than my own. Although I think I avoided being too prodding with the mark-asking, it was consistently on my mind. I remember one day when we got back a marked math test, a classmate came up to me and asked for my mark. After I told her (rather disappointedly, I wasn’t satisfied with my mark), she jumped with glee and exclaimed loudly that [she had gotten a better mark than me]! I slowly lost it and eventually ended up crying and having to leave with a friend to the bathroom to recuperate. Yes, over one math mark. And so, this stage marked an increase in sly tactics to try to show off my marks, such as asking others for their mark of a test that I had done well on, which eventually led to them asking for mine.
Stage 2 – growing pressure to meet my own expectations
By mid second semester, I realized that I was lagging so much behind that it was futile to try to compare myself to my most successful classmates. I started catching up on take-home work I should’ve been doing, and motivating myself to study more. This lead to a lot of self-doubts: am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? To reassure myself, I sometimes imagined myself as the most superior one. I picked out the weaknesses of my classmates to try to bring out my strengths and to stabilize my wavering confidence.
Now that I have arrived to the end of the school year, I have slowly progressed to the third stage, and that is, reevaluating and rebuilding my values. See, it’s easy being humble when everyone already knows that you’re the smartest one in the class. It’s harder being humble when you find out you’ve got to fight (using this in its tenacious spirit- not the aggressive spirit) to get to the top. And so I learned that being humble isn’t just the act of keeping quiet when you’ve received 100% on a test… It’s the act of accepting and appreciating the capabilities of your classmates (who now feel more like friends), and the act of respecting and honouring your own capabilities.
Have I mastered this art of humbleness yet? A big affirmative no. I don’t see myself arriving at an end point, the moment of success. I see only the trek, the progress, the infinite opportunities to discover and improve my own self. Stage 3 has made me realize that I love my classmates and their passions for the environment, physics, biology, math, history and the general pursuit of knowledge. And that I am capable of moving on from a bad mark while maintaining my determination of achieving what I know I am able to achieve.
I’ve said it on my blog and I’ve said it to many people, humbleness (or modesty… I use it intervariably) is the quality in a person’s character that I appreciate the most. As my definition for this word has been challenged, I’ve realized that character comes from within, but it’s how you choose to interact it with your environment that determines its evolution. I was adamant on staying loyal to my old definition of “humble”, but that only restricted my capacity to grow as a human. Only when I affronted my stubbornness was I able to see that it was okay to be faulty in my behaviour, and that gave way to carving myself a stronger, more aware, and more deeply rooted interpretation of the word humble.