Piece by Piece: finding it


Brian Higgins

Staff reporter Madison Saviano explores hot topics and issues that students face in her weekly column Piece by Piece.

Madison Saviano, Staff Reporter

After going nearly six month without school, I realize it’s the common denominator. It’s the “trigger.” It’s why I don’t feel as good as I think I could or should.

For some people, school is where they get their validation. They get a good grade, then that gives them the confidence to get another, and the cycle keeps going. I’ve been there. It feels great, until the cycle abruptly ends. 

It happens, you make a bad grade. That single bad grade can throw you off your whole groove. It robs confidence, and then you get another one and another one and before you know it, the negative feedback loop has begun. I’ve been there too.

I was there for a long time. I was stuck in that cycle from about 6th grade to the beginning of 8th. Then something changed, I decided I was going to do better one day, one grade at a time. Before I knew it, all the days skipped and lectures lost were made up for. I caught up (thanks to my godsend of an algebra teacher). The positive feedback loop began. Up until now, I’ve more or less been riding that wave. 

I would still fumble up, but since I was fixated on getting that feeling again, I would overcome whatever came my way. Sort of like….someone who needs their fix. You see, the only way to feel better after doing bad was simple: do better. So I would. I honest to God don’t know how, but I would pull through. I would make my recovery and regain my confidence. 

That’s what it comes down to: confidence. Sometimes school gives me that, but in those occasional rutts, it’s like I’m at square one again. It’s like I’m standing in my algebra classroom in 8th grade on the first day, not having a clue as to what the order of operations were or how to add and subtract negative numbers. Yes, it was that bad. I may as well have just skipped sixth and seventh grade (even though in some ways, I did). 

I remember in 7th grade my math teacher and I were talking about whether or not I should take Algebra One and she remarked “I don’t know about it, it seems most tests we’ve had you’ve been absent for.” I’m not sure whether or not she knew it, but in that one snarky sentence (she didn’t care for me much, honestly though it was understandable) she deduced where all my problems stemmed from. 

I had a severe fear of failing. I didn’t want to try then fail, because that would prove the suspicion I’ve always had: I’m incapable of achievement even at my best effort. So eventually, after I finally had to show up, after I finally had to take the test or give the presentation, I would be met with severe anxiety. Anxiety from waiting for the outcome I knew I had by that point made inevitable. I set myself for failure then tried to push that failure off as long as possible because I didn’t want to deal with the fallout. And while I’ve gotten over my fear of failure, my fear of trying, I have not gotten over my fear of the fallout. I have not escaped the anxiety.

Every test I take and every essay I write, I begin with that same feeling of anxiety. It’s like I’m waiting to fail before I’ve even tried. Sometimes, I fail for that very reason. Actually, that’s what inspired this. I let the anxiety get the best of me. It’s ok, though, I’ll rise again.

It’s like I said, the only way I know how to recover from those awful feelings is to just do better, be better. Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve accomplished that feat thus far and as of now, I’m trying to tap into that unharnessed source of power. I think I’ve just forgotten how. I’ve forgotten how to do anything it seems. Again, I’m rendered utterly useless. It’s like I’m constantly blanking. It’s like there’s some default mode in me that sets off whenever I’m feeling uncertain in the slightest. I’m sure you’ve all felt the same way. Maybe, you even feel it all the time. It’s like there’s always this looming cloud over you that’s waiting to pour. If you fumble in the slightest, the rain comes tumbling down.

I am so tired of this feeling, and it seems that school drags it out. I’m utterly at a loss because a part of me wants to move on as soon as possible so I can do better and get over this feeling and onto the next, but I’m so tired of chasing. I’m not saying that I’m going to give up here on out, I’m just saying that I would like to escape the cycle. I want to be content without anything or anyone giving me the thumbs up first. I want to rest assured that whether I’m on my best day or on my worst, my value diminishes none. Whether I get an F or an A, I am at my core worth the A. 

I guess I just need to be more forgiving of myself. Every time I get a setback it’s like I have no recollection of any prior achievement and I’m reduced to the entirety of my failure. That’s not going to work anymore. It’s too exhausting. On my worst days, when I’m feeling that the cloud is about to burst, I need to remember that whatever happens, I am still worth the A and after all, tomorrow is another day. 

I sincerely hope this helps you feel less alone or less inept or whatever you need to feel. Remember, things rise and then before long, they fall right back down again. It’s exhausting, it really is. Unfortunately, it’s the way of the world. It’s gravity. While it’ll always be pushing at you, you have the power to push back and propel yourself up again. The high times will level out with the low ones and you’ll find an equilibrium, finally some quality of life. And after falling so many times, after failing so many times, you will have mastered the art of bouncing back. I think I now know what my algebra teacher meant when she said “I hope you find it.” I hope you find it too.