I am fourteen and attending a six week summer program for gifted high school students at Cornell University. It is being a wonderful experience. Living outside my parents house has been a massive relief. Being surrounded by other students interested in school and the music and books I am has been amazing. I go from spending my evenings in my room reading to spending them with friends talking about everything from music to books to TV. We stay up late together and when the Hot Truck arrives outside the dorm at 10:00 PM we all line up to buy French bread pizzas.
I have always known that I don’t really belong in the tiny town I’ve grown up in and have always felt like a bit of an alien. But now I know that there will be places I do belong and this is the thing that will carry me through the next several years.
However, four weeks in to the program, I start to have my doubts.With two weeks to go, I wait for my roommate to leave and call my dad.
“Dad, I’m sorry. I’m going to give up on my statistics class. I’m going to fail anyway.”
“I’ve been trying so hard and every time I hand in my homework I check and double check it until it is perfect. Except when I get it back I usually get under 50%. My highest grade has been 65.”
At this point I start to cry for the first time in several years. Up until this point I have been successful at school without trying. Now I’m trying so hard and nothing is helping. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get my first failing grade. I’m not the person I thought I was.
My dad listens for a while and then when I stop, he takes a deep breath.
“Don’t give up. I know you are working hard and I know you can do it.”
“But it is impossible. There are so few assignments left that the best I can hope for is a D.”
“Don’t give up hope. Often with very difficult classes, things are graded on a curve. If everyone is doing as poorly as you are, you’ll all be adjusted up.”
And so, imagining his voice reassuring me as I write every homework assignment and quiz. My grades don’t improve much, but I get through it.
A month later my grades arrive in the mail and I am shocked to see I have a B. My dad was right. Even when it looks like the worst will happen, you can’t give up. You don’t know how a story will end until you finish the book.