Room at the Top

by Madeline Anscombe


I very vividly remember sitting around on spring break last year when I opened a text from a friend asking me if I had received an envelope from the University. I told her no, and she responded that she had heard news that she would be recognized on Honors Day. I turned to another friend that I was with, and we both frantically texted our moms to check the mail.  We erupted when we learned that she had also received an envelope, but I soon learned that mine had not arrived. We thought of different possibilities; it could have been lost in the mail or misplaced by one of my sisters. For a day or two I considered those options, surely having started an influential organization and maintaining top grades would earn me a place in the University’s most prestigious honor societies? I had done nothing but aim for excellence and place my own needs beneath the needs of those around me for the betterment of the community. As days passed and I ruled out the possibility that my parents had lost it or that it was still coming, I grappled with a new truth: maybe I wasn’t considered one of the 30-or so most influential members of my class.

But instead of accepting that others were truly deserving, I looked at my classmates who had seemingly achieved less than me with far more privileges and became angry. By my own account, I had achieved more than them. I dwelled on the fact that many of these individuals were granted admission because of factors I could not control, friendships that they had made and organizations that I wasn’t in or couldn’t afford. I was reminded for the first time in all of college of how I felt every semester in high school when my report card told me exactly how many people ranked above me. Even when I did well, the reminder that I was not the very best in some measures weighed heavily over my head just as it did the weeks before Honors Day.

I would be lying if I told you that I’m not still a bit upset that all of the work I had (and have since) done on campus has gone fairly unrecognized. Anyone with a competitive drive and an ounce of self-esteem issues can tell you that accomplishments that go unnoticed by others feel like they must not be worth much. But while I was busy feeling sorry for myself, I forgot to celebrate all of my incredible friends for what they had accomplished.

In the midst of questioning my self-worth, I forgot the tenant that I try to hold myself to; there isn’t a limited amount of room for us all to win. While I personally struggle looking beyond myself in situations like this, it is imperative to understand that our friends successes are not negations of our own. Instinctively, I believed that my absence on The Mound necessitated the degradation of other incredibly hard working individuals. This, of course, is not the case and I now believe that we should all feel lucky to have people who excel in different areas than we do. While I might be a good friend to talk to in a time of crisis, I am lucky to have friends that will help me with my math homework when I get confused. We each serve different purposes in each other’s lives and there is no way to quantify the good that we accomplish. It is easy to turn to measures like grades, jobs and honors, but I challenge you to see yourself and others for more than certificates and cords.

This past year has taught me to celebrate a wider range of people than just the select few in the spotlight. I have become more aware of friends who might not be awarded this coming Friday but juggle two jobs on top of a full course load. I am in awe of people who battle mental illness everyday and still manage to ask how I am doing whenever they see me. The success of these people, or anyone for that matter, does not negate my own but rather provides me with a more diverse and accomplished group of classmates.

So here’s the truth: you (or one of your friends) might not get everything they were aiming for this week. That is understandably upsetting, but it also is not the end of the world. I dare you to accept your friends where they are regardless of accolades or grade point averages. Tell them what you admire in them and what makes them worth celebrating. I think you will realize that you are surrounded by a lot more badasses than you think.