As a young girl, I was blessed with the gift of knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life - I wanted to be a writer. To my six-year old self, it seemed natural that I should be able to write the Great American Novel by my 17th birthday, but of course, I learned otherwise by junior high school. However, never did I anticipate that the cobblestones of the path to where I wanted to go were actually the heads of my peers and even my friends.
I came to this realization about the same time that everyone else in Benjamin N. Cardozo High School did. The SATs came back and I totally rocked the verbal, but my math score was lower than Jacques Cousteau in the depths of Atlantic. I barely passed chemistry, despite how hard I studied. I applied to the best, most expensive private colleges possible (woe betide my single-parent household) and was rejected from all but a handful.
A few of my relatives told me I should have lied and said I was Hispanic on my applications; after all, I'm Italian and there are plenty of Italians in Argentina. Suddenly, mere pieces of paper with scores and "congratulations" became status symbols and precursors to who would one day become rich, famous and/or powerful. I might as well have joined my friends on the "grassy knoll" smoking marijuana and cigarettes instead of listening to that darn chemistry teacher drone, I once thought.
Now I'm in college, where we are encouraged to kick and scratch our way to the highest grade point average possible and add another awe-inspiring line to an impressive resume. The term "experience" buzzes in my ear like an annoying fly, reminding me that if I don't get that internship, if I don't get that job, if I don't make this professor fall madly in love with me, then I might as well turn in my chips and enjoy staring at the gray cubicle walls that will one day envelope me from all sides.
This kind of competitive drive can really punch holes into a person's sense of self. It makes it difficult to experience joy at the successes of one's friends, not because one is not genuinely happy for them, but because it is a constant reminder of one's faults, that no matter how far ahead one thinks he or she is going, a person is always one or two steps behind.
Even in The Spectrum office, where we are all so tightly-knit and have such admiration for one another, it has to make some stomachs turn when we are all competing with one another for that same internship at The Buffalo News, that same entry-level job, that same slot on the front page. What keeps us together, even in the face of high-stress and high competition is the need we have for one another - if one cog is missing, then the whole machine comes to a screeching halt.
Sometimes I relish the competition and feel that it keeps me going. I'm certainly not one to maliciously hurt someone to get ahead or completely neglect my personal life and the people who will care about me no matter what I end up doing with myself. It is often fun and kind of like a sport or a game and the best part of it is that I really enjoy what I am doing.
But what I really want is a return to something old and may be outdated, but not completely forgotten: going to college for the sake of learning, scholarship for the benefit of one's self and perhaps humanity as opposed to needing yet another piece of paper to get a job and make money.