I remember vividly my first experience of this when I was 14. For most of my life I had struggled academically. In primary school, in the days when kids got grades in exams, there were 32 kids in my class and I was sure to come in 16th/17th position every end of term. You could bet money on me and I got used to this position. When I got to secondary school and there were 5 arms in each year, I was somewhere between 100-120th in a year of 200 kids. As I said, I was always somewhere in the middle-ish.
In my fourth year in secondary school, I became a Christian. One of my first prayers to God was for Him to help me do better in class. If this could happen, then I would know He could indeed do the impossible. At the end of that year I came 49th in a year of 220 kids or so. 49th! Me!!! And I was like 9th/10th in my class. It was unbelievable. I went on to get 6As and 3Cs in my final exams. Which for a straight C/D student is nothing short of a miracle. I’ll never forget the impact it had on me. Now before the naysayers start to recoil, I’m not saying God did this (although I am) but certainly becoming a Christian boosted my esteem and confidence in leaps and bounds and that affected my grades. However, that’s a post for another day.
Back to my story. Apart from the impact of my results, I was also amazed by the reaction of people close to me and around me. There were girls in my class that were genuinely surprised but also really happy that I had excelled so well. I remember the squeals and the jumping, as girls do, so vividly. And for a few moments I was the ‘clever girl.’ However, I was surprised by the reaction of one of my closest friends. It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy for me but she wasn’t as enthusiastic as the other girls who barely knew me.
For years, I had watched her, without any jealousy, get better grades than I did. I mean she was cleverer than I was – fact. And this one time, when I happened to do a lot better than her, I’m not sure what baffled her more. Was it the fact that she got poor scores or that she did so badly that even Tomi got better scores than she did? For some reason, my success seemed to beam a poor reflection upon her. I recall a similar scenario with my younger sister when one of her closest friends simply told her that her scores were wrong as she couldn’t possibly have gotten a higher score than she did. 🙂 Oh the honesty of children.
I’ve had this scenario reoccur a few times in my life where people who were used to me being middle of the road were suddenly appalled that I got better scores than they did. They didn’t seem to think of me when I watched them get glowing results whilst I went home with my pathetic school reports. Never once did I begrudge them their scores. They worked hard for them, they deserved them. I only ever wished that my scores would get better, and my wish came true.
Sometimes you get the feeling that people like you as long as your ‘failures’ make them feel better about themselves.
Misery loves a crowd and in a herd, we all look the same. The moment a head pops up, it stands out. The moment one decides to go in a different direction, it’s glaring. Not everyone will like it. It’s not easy standing out in a crowd especially when people don’t seem happy for you. Particularly as, frankly, no one wants to walk alone. Nonetheless, at some point in our lives we have no choice but to take certain paths on our own – a simple fact of life.
Whether or not it’s as a result of this experience, I’ll never know but I abhor being part of the herd. I want to live my life in a way that infuriates the norm. That’s my goal. Hopefully 40 years from now if you ask me how it all worked out, I’ll reply, ‘gggggggreat!