In 2005 at Walt Whitman Elementary School, a dynasty was born when I was elected president of my elementary school—my long ascent to power only beginning. I went on to be elected president of my middle school, class president in ninth, tenth and eleventh grade, until finally, I solidified my domination of my hometown's political throne as student body president my senior year.
So, it was no surprise that when my high school yearbook's superlative season rolled around senior year, my tenure as president would cinch me another win as "Most Likely to be President of the United States." I mean, my nickname was "Aco4Prez" for god's sake (people really called me that).
I won awards. I got into Penn. I gave a speech at graduation. In high school, I was superlative. In high school, I was special.
But that's the funny thing about coming to Penn. I came here, and my specialness wasn't distinguished. It was far from special. Within the first few days of NSO, I met six other former high school presidents. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me until then that every high school in America also had a student body president. And a bunch of those student body presidents were now freshman at Penn.
My former distinction suddenly seemed less than impressive, my identity drowned in a sea of peers whose accomplishments rivaled mine—a sea of former published scientists, Olympic athletes, Intel scholars and apparently even former American Idol contestants.
However, in my first few weeks of Penn, though I could already feel the waves of my newfound relative–averageness sloshing at my feet, I still had the spirit and confidence of a girl whose head was still far above water. I went out for everything that piqued my interest, and by senior year, I had assembled a pretty nice list of things I'm passionate about: class board, Penny Loafers, OAX, Street. Longer than my resume, however, is the list of things I've been rejected from. And that list is long. The bar is simply higher here, and despite my 6'0 stature, sometimes I can't reach it.
A friend of mine once told me that she admired the fact that no matter how many times I've been rejected, nothing could stop me from going for the next thing. While I appreciate her sentiment, I also think she pointed out my most destructive personality trait. She doesn't know how many nights I've spent crying on the phone with my mom feeling rejected, embarrassed, not good enough for Penn. My insatiable desire to be the most impressive version of myself has led to many accomplishments, but after a particularly brutal round of rejections last year (and ten tubs of Ben and Jerry's), I couldn't help but wonder at what point I'll stop trying to prove myself, and just be proud of myself.
Being superlative was certainly an honor, but it was by no means a guarantee of inevitable and overwhelming success. I may no longer be superlative, but I needed to learn that just because there isn't someone handing me a trophy or medal for everything I achieve, doesn't mean my success isn't legitimate. Most of the time, there isn't going to be the right institution or formalized recognition to celebrate the things that make you special.
My reign over all presidential titles may have ended after my high school superlative. But I can pride myself in other areas. So while I might not win "Most Likely to be President of the United States" at the end of the year, I know I've mastered other domains. "Most Likely to Do What She Loves?" I've got that down. And "Most Likely to be the First to Suggest Leaving Smokes' for Allegro's." I'd definitely win that.