Morgan’s parents would give her $10 for every B and $20 for every A. She didn’t make any money that year.

According to my calculations, if offered the same incentive structure, I could have raked in $160 that semester alone. Straight As and 8 classes; I was pretty good at math.

We were eleven and it was our first time getting real grades. In elementary school it was either an X, a check, or a check plus. Of course, I always got the check pluses, but what did that prove? They probably handed those out like candy on Halloween. The letters were so much more official. Middle school was so much more official.

Our report cards were baby blue pieces of paper, handed to us in manilla envelopes. I liked seeing all the As lined up underneath each other. I liked order, uniformity.

Morgan slumped her shoulders and dragged her feet home from the bus stop, scheming about ways she could hide the bad news from her parents. I could barely contain my excitement as I raced home and to the basement where my dad was working at his desk.

“I got straight As!” I announced, proudly brandishing the infamous envelope.

He briefly glanced at me– more of a twitch than a glance, really– and turned back to his work.

“Ah. Well. You can do better.”

I froze. “Wha… nnn-no, you can’t!” I sputtered.

He was already back to work.

Story of my life: doing everything right and never being good enough. Morgan’s mom would nag about her why she couldn’t respect her parents like I did. Cory’s mom would nag him about why he couldn’t practice violin every day like I did. Cassie’s mom would just sigh and look at me as if on the verge of tears, while Cassie screamed in the background.

I didn’t know that these other parents couldn’t love me either. All I knew was that I could win over anyone except my parents. And none of my friend’s parents knew that I didn’t respect my parents, didn’t practice the violin, and I screamed a lot at home too. I couldn’t hide who I was long enough to win over my parents.

All I knew was that, on my own, I was never going to be good enough.


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