A Life of Numbers 

Yesterday, class ranks became “official” (and I put that in quotes because they can still change before graduation, but not before college applications are due). And for those of you who don’t go to public school and don’t understand what that means, or for those of you who haven’t experienced it yet, it’s a seriously terrifying time. Imagine 330+ teenagers, who have all been killing themselves for 4 years, receiving the number that determines the order of their freedom. Teenagers who, after 4 years, can finally see how they measure up. It’s terrible. The hallways and classrooms are filled with questions of “What number are you?” “Who’s number 10?” “How does she have a 104 average?” “Why is his GPA over a 4.0?” And so on. Friends turn on friends. Death threats are common. It’s horrible, very Hunger Games like. But, it seems to be very important to us for some reason. We seem to want to know everyone’s rank and average, and we will not stop until we do. But these numbers mean nothing.

Think about it. In about a week, all of this will die down, and it won’t matter again until the last month of school when they recalculate the rankings and publish the Top 20 in the newspaper. And by then, and even by now, it will be too late to do anything about it. And in a year from now, you will be in college and it won’t matter if you graduated 1st or 331st, because everyone will be in the same place. We are all going to be lost and confused, trying to figure out life with no idea of what to do or how to be an adult. Or you will enter the military or the workforce, and think the same things. And in 5 years from now, when you are starting a career, it won’t matter what your high school GPA was. Thousands of people will be looking for the same job you are, and the best, most qualified ones will be hired. The ones who will bring the most to the company. Not the ones with the highest high school GPA, or even the highest college GPA. And in 10 years from now, when you start a family, your husband won’t leave you because your class rank was not high enough. (And if he does, let him, because you deserve better than that.)

And class ranks and GPAs are not even accurate measures of intelligence anyway. I mean, all they measure is your ability to follow instructions, be patient, and memorize material. That’s not the only form intelligence takes. Your ability to create, or sympathize, or understand: these are all forms of intelligence. In fact, I have a friend who, on paper, appears average. But in reality, she is one of the most intelligent people I know. Her musical talent is amazing. And her spiritual knowledge and maturity is astounding. I have had many deep, intense conversations with her; conversations which have left me challenged and have made me feel and think unimaginable things. I have had none of these with any of my friends who rank in the Top 10. And she is one the the nicest, most understanding, most caring people I have ever met, and I have no doubt she will go as far, if not further, in life than all those kids who are “smarter” than her. Because her intelligence, although in an unconventional form, is just as present and just as prevelant as everyone else’s. It’s just not accurately measured by the standards set by society. 

Finally, and most importantly, your GPA does not define who you are as a person. So often, we are caught up in numbers, and how they define us. Our class rank, our GPA, our SAT score. But these numbers are just that, numbers. They can’t measure the depth of your heart or the width of your understanding. They don’t explain your love, your personality, or your soul. And in the real world, these things are what will really matter. No one is going to like you just because you were smart in high school. People will like you because of your heart, your kindness, your personality, and your soul. And those, coupled with determination, motivation, and willpower, are what is going to take you far in life. Not some arbitrary number on a paper. Because, if every person’s intelligence was the same, we would have no music, or art, or literature. If everyone’s intelligence was in the same form, we wouldn’t have comedians, or teachers, or actors. So, if you are graduating 1st, congratulations, be proud of all you have accomplished. If you’re graduating 331st, congratulations, you made it, even though it may have seemed like you never would. And sometimes, when you barely have the strength to get out of bed, the fact that you made it is all that matters. Because numbers are no more than just that- numbers. And you are a person with a name, a face, and an identity. And that identity is not based on numbers, but on experiences. And people are people because they are unique, and each have their own strengths, and each contributes to the world in vastly different ways. So forget about your class rank and your GPA. Challenge yourself and be determined. Work hard and love harder. Don’t worry;  you will be okay. 

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