Olivia R. is a student living and learning in California. She
enjoys writing and reading. She has a 4.0 GPA and is excited to be heading
to college soon. She’s been a reader of Smart Student Secrets for 2 years.
My heart was racing like I’d never felt before.
But all I was doing was sitting in a classroom. Just like I did everyday
before. But it was different. It was very different. And I felt my stomach
turning and my eyes starting to water up.
It was test day. And I wasn’t well.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I shut the stall door. And… I
This is a super embarrassing story to tell today.
Some of you are probably thinking, “this girl is crazy. It’s just a test,
right?” And looking back… a part of me thinks that way but it’s just not
a fair way to think of it.
My world revolved around my test scores. My world revolved around getting
results. The embarrassing part for me back then was how “stupid” I thought
I broke down in that bathroom that morning. I sobbed. I thought about how
bad I had screwed up. But that wasn’t a sad morning. It started sad.
But it turned into something I’m proud of. It turned into a shining moment
of my life.
I learned a lesson I should have learned years before.
Are You Ignoring The Real Problem?
Crying in that bathroom I wasn’t thinking:
- I’m so stupid.
- I don’t work hard enough.
- I always screw up on tests.
- I’m going to embarrass myself or my parents
That’s what got me studying late hours the night before but now…
I wasn’t worried about any of them.
It was something else. It was –
This worrying isn’t worth it.
I had spent years worrying about my grades. I would lose sleep studying. I
would miss fun times with my friends so I could squeeze an extra 2 points
on my grade. I would torture myself when I didn’t do well.
And that morning, I knew that none of that suffering was worth it.
I wasn’t working towards a better future…
I was sacrificing my today for something that would never come…
I knew… No matter how high I brought my grades… At the end of the
day… I would want more out of myself.
At a certain point, I have to be willing to be happy. If I don’t pick when
that moment comes, I won’t have a chance of ever living a life worth living.
How To Enjoy Life While Living It
What’s the point of living if you can’t take some kind of pleasure out of
I had been living my life like I’m running a lemon farm. I’d spend all day
planting trees and trimming branches.
And I’d never… never…
Take 20 minutes to enjoy the lemonade.
Life shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be a job.
I know… you want to do things in your life. I do too. But I promise
It’s easier to do things in life when you take pleasure out of the life
Getting up in the morning is easy when you know you’re going to enjoy
Studying is easy when you know it’s not going to suck too bad.
Going to class is easy when you’re going to let yourself make some mistakes.
These things become challenges when you set too high of standards for
Tears Of Relief
I didn’t understand this in the moment.
But those tears I shed in that bathroom, that morning, were tears of
relief. They were years of frustration that I’d let build up inside myself.
I had obsessed over getting more and more perfect scores. I had obsessed
over every red mark on a paper. And quite frankly, I almost gave up every
good part of my life.
It wasn’t worth it. None of it.
I was competing for some of the best colleges in the country at the time. I
was a shoo-in for an ivy league education.
But it still wasn’t worth it.
But here is the really funny thing…
Less Stress Skyrocketed My Grades
When I left the bathroom that morning, I promised myself:
I’m not going to worry about this test.
I knew I tried hard. And whatever came of it would be okay.
And I took that test stress-free.
Sure… I didn’t know a couple answers but I let myself be okay with it.
And I didn’t let me punish myself (like I used to do.)
I tried not to think about that test because it still made me a little
uncomfortable over the next couple of days.
But… when I got that test score… I got the greatest relief of my life
it was an A+.
I was crying in the classroom with worry that morning. But I still got a
nearly perfect score.
When I got that test score, I knew it…
I had figured out the “balance,” I’d dreamed of for years.
I thought it was a balance of stress & everything else in life.
I thought – if I give this amount of stress then I can get this amount of
results in life.
But the thing is…
And I’m learning this more every single day of my life…
Stress has nothing to do with it.
It’s a balance of training & life. Or learning & life.
Stress doesn’t help you train yourself.
It just slows it down.
It’s better to give up the stress. Then you’ll have more energy to give to
this doesn’t hurt your grades.
The Single Biggest Challenge…
The biggest challenge I’ve faced is other people.
I know why I struggled for so many years. I’m guessing you’ve seen this in
For years, my parents and teachers taught me to suffer. They told me this
would help my grades.
- study “hard”
- study long hours
- focus “hard”
- try “hard”
- work instead of have fun
And every time I’d make a mistake… they’d just tell me to do more of it…
But doing more of it just made me make more mistakes.
Yes… I know studying. And working are important. But studying and working
are easier when you don’t suffer…
That might mean you work a little less hard for now…
But I promise you… a month or two in… that work is going to be easier
than you’ve ever imagined. You’re going to be able to do so much more. And
it’s going to be easy.
The world will see you stop studying. They may judge you for it. But the
world doesn’t know better than you.
My parents told me, “you’re not studying long enough.” And for a while, I
had to tell them, “if my grades lower, I’ll study more. Please trust me.”
And eventually… they saw my grades go up.
And fortunately… now I think they understand too..
My name is Olivia and I’m excited that I’ve had this opportunity to tell my
story to Smart Student Secrets. Please comment below and let me know what
Have you had similar challenges in life? What did you do to overcome them?
Let me tell you (an inappropriate) true story…
It was high school Spanish class…
I was a Senior in a class of Sophomores. There was one other Senior in the class. Best of all –
She was smokin’ (as the old folk say.) She was gorgeous. 10 out of 10. Tight jeans. And she always sat right in front of me in class (gulp.)
We were the only Seniors in the class. By default… that made me the coolest guy there… And trust me… I’m never the coolest guy there.
But we’d talk. Sometimes in class she’d lean over. I’d continue to pretend me importa la espanol stuff pero… Seriousamente… 😛
Sure… I’d show up to class. But my brain rarely stuck around for the lecture. And that’s why you might not be surprised I was getting a C- in class.
It’s funny how that stuff that distracted me in highschool wasn’t so problematic in college where I took a double course load and still scored near the top of my class…
You don’t need to be perfect to score near perfect.
You just need to know how…