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By Alex Pu

  1. Untitled
    By Brittany Ahn

I was light-headed, high off the musk of expensive cologne applied perhaps a
little too liberally, stumbling through a mass of foreign faces and voices, and struggling to peer over the pastel-colored Vineyard Vine shirts to catch a glimpse of the looming room numbers. It wasn’t just my first day of school, it was also my first day in the school. I was hopelessly lost, trudging neck-deep in my own frustration and choking on the anger that I felt towards my parents for throwing me into a new school with no friends, no social skills, and no map. I was armed with nothing but an abnormally deep voice and a Dekalb county-education, neither of which having any particular use in a school setting. I had developed a reputation for myself that year; I was that kid who, despite his most genuine efforts, had seemed to have hit rock bottom. I had crappy grades, a shy, awkward demeanor, and no real talent. My future seemed unrealizable, uncertain, hopeless even. For a while it seemed as though I had peaked in middle school.

Fast forward exactly one year. I was still that same kid. A little less awkward. A little more discouraged. No one had any real expectations for me; heck! I didn’t even have any real expectations for me. But, thanks to some unknownst heavenly force, I was placed in the classroom of a quiet, middle-aged math teacher. She was a calculated women, everything she did was done purposefully with a deft grace that has, over the years, garnered the respect of hundreds of students. She ran a tight ship and commanded an ever-growing nation, never wasting an unneeded breath, leaving the air for the kids who were choking, kids like me.

The loud colors of her teal-colored turtle neck and magenta shawl exacted a piercing silence among the students. She seemed to alleviate a heaviness in the classroom as she glided from her black chair across the dull white tiles of the room to close the door. Even the turquoise stone around her neck seemed to levitate as if it was holding its breath, afraid to make its presence known. The waves of her platinum-blonde hair swayed in tempo with her elaborate earrings. It was all nestled comfortably atop her head, cradling it like a tiara on the head of royalty. Nearly every aspect of her quaint figure spoke volumes of her personality, crafting a silent yet prismatic persona. The echo of her steps seemed to fill the room, reaching even the most distant students as she treaded lightly towards the board, and in that moment that she turned around, the room let out a sigh, but it did so in a cautious manner, being careful not to perturb the ephemeral grace that lined the white walls. She turned to face us once more, her icy-blue eyes analyzed the classroom, as if evaluating which kids would need the most help, perhaps that’s why her eyes seemed to settle on me the longest.

Despite the harsh pressure of her classroom, it became the first environment in high school where I flourished as a student. After failing the diagnostic pre-test I got my first A on a math assessment since entering high school. Soon I got another A, higher this time, and then another, even higher this time, until I began making 100s on nearly every quiz and test I took. I consider this sequence to be a pivotal moment in my high school career; I began to exceed expectations and break the mental barriers that were once imposed on me along with other people’s perception of me. I was finally changing that image, for the better this time. It gave me faith as a student and helped me overcome my initial mental inertia. I began gaining momentum and soon I was excelling in not just my other classes, but in my extra curriculars as well. I felt like I was knocking down wall after wall -- I felt high. I was high off of my own achievements, it was like a drug. I was addicted to the euphoric feeling of making what seemed impossible possible. Even now this is where I derive my drive to always do better from, and it all started on that day nearly two years ago, back when I was a little more shy and a little less confident.