When I woke up this morning, I realized that my hair has thinned to a point that it is difficult to hide it. It has been happening for a few years now, from one too many stressful days of school, homework, and the “lack” of free time.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get a leg back up on social interactions and learning how to empathize with people through weekly group and individual sessions. On the receiving end, I listen to how others relate to my constant regrets over lost opportunities in making friendships and meeting people. On the giving end, I talk with the most emotional, yet most recent, event I could possibly recall: my trip to Japan. Needless to say, the strong emotions I expressed at the conclusion of the trip and during surreal moments (such as the first morning in Kyoto, during that shocking, first-hand realization that that the sun rises at 4:45 am; or perhaps the dramatic entry into Tokyo through Rainbow Bridge) seemed to have been expressed genuinely, and were thus understood by the counselor.

I have also realized that most of my emotional state pivots around grades and homework: good grades means less self-regret and self-deprecation, while less homework means less anxiety and burden imposed on my self. It doesn’t help, though, that scholarships seem to be paramount if I don’t want to myself to a middle-class life of work – yet only the top-notch, stellar students get the scholarships, regardless of national origin. Just because I lived for an important part of my life in a Spanish-speaking island that is now physically and politically devastated doesn’t entitle me to anything, nor does it seem to give me a leg up on any admission. I want to find a way to decouple my emotions from my grades, because the notion of a class rank still haunts me from high school, and I will break myself if this continues.

I have already taken two midterms, and I have two more tomorrow. I have little concern for midterms. Studying for a midterm implies that one is trying to compensate for a failure to learn something in the past, and thus partly defeats the purpose of a midterm. The mastery part should occur during the homework and after the homework is reviewed in class (or answers are revealed). The midterm is simply an assertion to the professor or teacher that you really know the material you claim to have learned. Yet I seem to be erring on the side of Bs when I take these midterms: my first one was an 88%, and that was a 50-question multiple-choice test. My second one was somewhere around an 83%, and that’s only because I missed one multiple-choice question out of seven, and then failed to compute the correct answer on the free response even though I followed and communicated all of the steps correctly. My target is “please, just anything above a B.” If I get Bs on all my exams and 100% on all of my homework, I would still end up with an A- in my classes, which is not great if I want a scholarship.

The bottom line is that I don’t want to bind myself to endless work because I owe money to someone.

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