Am I Good Enough?

I sit behind my screen, tapping away as my brain swells with ideas while I contently listen to my favorite song, which, right now, is Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. Someone else at this exact moment might be running a marathon, donating his kidney to a loved one, or even funding a non-profit organization founded on the beliefs of universal healthcare and ending child poverty. Am I really that small (figuratively and physically) that I cannot engage in a better use of my time? Can I be doing better than I am right now? These are just some of the thoughts that are constantly running through my tireless brain: I lose sleep over my insecurities because I subconsciously believe that regenerating for the day ahead is overrated.

I’ve had issues with my self-esteem for as long as I can remember. The fact that I am overweight for my height and age is a concern that never seems to die away, as well as the fact that I panic under pressure while I know there are plenty of people, in my exact position, who invite pressure in intense situations because it is a stimulant that will allow them to perform well. I, on the other hand, drive myself to engage in high-pressure situations but always seem to believe that I am not skilled or prepared enough to handle them.

Ever since I’ve been able to read, I’ve been inquisitive of my surroundings and always open to absorbing new information. Now, I am overwhelmed with the looming stress of college, standardized tests, APs, and expanding upon the “it” factor that will convince admissions’ officers I am worthy of the small period of their time required to read my application, although the time I set aside to polish it was so much greater (something they’ll never truly understand). Who am I to stand alongside the varsity athletes, or nationally-recognized debate or mock trial winners, or founders of organizations based on a cause dear to them, all of whom are under the age of eighteen? Who am I to even think that I, a brown girl from the city of Las Vegas, Nevada (no, it isn’t all casinos for those of you asking) whose parents emigrated from Pakistan and whose grandparents sacrificed nearly everything to ensure a successful future for their family am worthy enough to function in the real world?

The problem with my personality I’ve discovered is merely based on attitude. I have a good life and am content with my relationships, interests, intelligence, and family. I approach every obstacle as a test, thinking, This is the moment when I finally break down. This is the test I finally won’t pass. This is the wall that will separate me, a concrete-based thinker, and my peers, intellectuals who can derive an applicable lesson out of anything and everything. Based on my inability to function in society without overthinking every situation, you probably wouldn’t know that I’ve been rewarded several times for my right brain-based skills in the past, including music and art. You may see me as thankless, because clearly my blessings outnumber my fears, but I wouldn’t blame me entirely for the way I approach my problems.

OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM IS FLAWED.

Since I can only speak for the American education system, based on experience, I will say a few things that stand out to me regarding the way administrators and counselors handle juvenile education. To begin, high school is a jungle, a concept that is over-dramatized and highly exaggerated in coming of age films and novels, especially those of which occur in the twenty-first century. Although I am highly privileged and attend a prestigious private school, I will say that teenagers aren’t as easily manipulated as close-minded adults may think. We don’t necessarily try to invite danger when taking risks, we aren’t always blowing off school work when we hang out with friends, and we don’t view our peers as pawns in a chess game of “COLLEGE ADMISSIONS.” We shouldn’t be bred to think like adults when we are only just learning about our personal physicalities, likes and dislikes, and opinions about pressing topics, those of which were “taboo” to us, mere kids, just two years ago. High school is an experience, and anticipating failure is okay, especially when you are prepared to handle it.

We make mistakes and we fall. But our education system has led us to believe that one slip-up will determine the course for the rest of our lives. Now, I do partially blame myself for the way that I react to failure (let me just say it isn’t graceful), but also, as the stakes have gone up for collegial acceptance and degrees required for a respectable job, so do administrator’s attitudes towards grade-point averages.

Three numbers and you’ve been invited to the world of CEOs, respectable business people, high-class lawyers, surgeons, scientists, STEM-based thinkers, policy makers. Or three numbers and you have a second class job. Or three numbers and I will see you handing me my order when I’m having a bad day and need a fast-food pick me up. That’s the root of the problem. Yes, paying attention to education is crucial to one’s success in the future, but we need to stop teaching our children that these four years determine the rest of our lives. This is the time that they should be allowed to fail in order to learn the rights from wrongs, live because while we are slaving away at our jobs until 65 we might not be able to do so later, and mess up because right now, we are blessed enough to have our parents right there to give us the comfort, assurance, but also dutiful punishment we need to open our eyes to the reality of the world.

Whenever I see a new film starring a girl my age I think two things: either what adventure will she embark on that I will probably daydream about in my math class later on when I’m bored , or what way will the adults around her make her feel small for “being on social media too much” or “not looking up” : the flawed argument that these adults truly believe is the root cause for our generation’s failure to function in society.

This leads me to my second point about why I approach my problems with such a flawed mindset: THE GENERATION BEFORE US BROKE OUR COUNTRY.

To make my point abundantly clear, let me begin by saying this: did my friends elect Donald Trump as the president of the United States? I am aware of how I may look to the older people reading this: I am OBVIOUSLY just an angry teenage girl, living in a world where feminism is a

commercialized, consumer-based, capitalist-driven concept that tells girls not to shave their armpits, walk around without a shirt on, and yell at men all the time because women, as a collective unit are descendants of Eve who caused our downfall from grace, representatives of the antichrist, WHO ARE HELLBENT ON REMOVING MEN FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

I joke, I joke. There is one thing that these close-minded adults, forever trapped in the flawed perception of reality that the younger generation will cause America to burst into flames, got right. We are angry; in fact, we are enraged. We just need the resources to speak up without being accused of slander, even though the president has proven time and time again that slander is acceptable, racism is okay, and disrespect towards women, the fundamental creators of all society, is a means to an end. But no, we are failing because we look down too much. I’ll have to admit, this argument has some valid points, but I beg of you to stop shifting your own, well-deserved personal blame from the fact of the matter. You brought us here.

We need help, we need advice, we want a voice. You say that we are just self-diagnosing ourselves, some of whom you believe include the LGBTQ+ community, with “mental disorders,” as ways to grab your attention? According to the Columbia School of Public Health, “ ‘Depression is most common among those with least access to any health care, including mental health professionals. This includes young people and those with lower levels of income and education,’ noted Goodwin. ‘Despite this trend, recent data suggest that treatment for depression has not increased, and a growing number of Americans, especially socioeconomically vulnerable individuals and young persons, are suffering from untreated depression. Depression that goes untreated is the strongest risk factor for suicide behavior and recent studies show that suicide attempts have increased in recent years, especially among young women.’ Which generation, again, caused our broken healthcare system? Which is one of the few first-world countries, again, responsible for our lack of free healthcare?

We need your attention not just to make a spectacle. We shouldn’t necessarily be the ones looking up, as you forget the fact that yes, although technology is potentially a means to control us all and is a dangerous way of tracking our location, records, and personal files, it is also an efficient way to access information. We learn about news in Afghanistan from the click of our finger. Contact a loved one with the press of a button. Spread information about a local protest on immigration occurring in your area with the transfer of a couple links. Rather, you should be the ones looking up and away from your ignorance. Place faith in the younger generation and give us a chance.

Personal self-esteem issues are primarily caused by my own personal matters that I must resolve to move forward in life, a broken education system, and a world full of cynical adults who directed their money towards the wrong people in a time of crisis and as a result, are making us fix it and additionally, blame us for the destruction of the world we haven’t been given the chance to experience yet. Live your lives with purpose and promise, and I ensure, the world will be yours.

Mina Ahmed