No Singular Success: The Importance of Acknowledging Diversity of Aspirations

Images compiled by Abby Lass

By Bobby Lovett

Opinions Contributor

The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. The biggest trick I ever pulled was convincing the world my work ethic doesn’t exist.

To those of you who know me and know of my unmatched skill in procrastination, your first assumption of me is probably that I’m just really lazy. To some of my better friends, you’re probably convinced that I got where I am in life while constantly teetering on the edge of a cliff– barely passing all of my classes after paying no attention to the teacher, throwing together everything I know at the last second, and then miraculously doing decently in the end. I’ve made a joke out of this amazing ability of mine, but recently I’ve realized that people genuinely believe that this is how I operate. Logically, it’s impossible for me to have pulled this off, but people are bitterly convinced that I’ve done it, and when bitterness is involved, logic gets thrown out the window.

Yes, I turned in my last five-page paper one month after it was due and completed my sophomore speech two nights before I was supposed to perform it. I used to memorize all my lines for shows at the last second. And yet I’m still doing well in all of my classes– except math, but that’s a story for another day– and I still put on quite a few damn good shows.

How is it possible that I am remotely smart? Why do I get to live without the stress that others have and still manage to be okay?

The answer to that is that I am equally as hardworking as you are, just not in the same way.

Many students among us have a very narrow definition of what a hard worker is. They typically see this ideal student as someone who is constantly working nonstop during all of their free time, barely camping in time to relax in between all of their extracurriculars and academics (which probably includes a minimum of at least one honors class).

But let’s face the facts: not everyone is trying to go to Harvard and be the Phi Beta Kappa of their class. The reality is, not all of us can be that one person, and that is okay. In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s normal. What we should be doing is aspiring to do our best, whatever that may be, with our own personal abilities. We will all achieve something, and we will all achieve something different. Because everyone is different, we can’t all be that kid with a 5.0 and a free ride to Harvard– and a lot of us probably don’t want that to be the standard by which we measure our success.

One of the worst things Newton South students have convinced themselves of is that we need to go to a prestigious college, or else we’re dumb or lazy. For all of our left-leaning views, it’s hard to believe that we would consider anyone who isn’t like us in respect to these goals inferior. Strange, isn’t it?

More importantly, our opinions of our very own seemingly lazy students are simply factually incorrect. According to U.S. News and World Report, Newton South’s graduation rate is 99%. That means less than 20 students don’t graduate per year. Taking into account the number of children with learning disabilities, mental illness, and any other form of disadvantage, that’s really, really good. Clearly, people are working hard in their academics at the very least and are going somewhere in life, and it’s not up to me, you or anybody else to decide where or what that is. Remember that Newton South is an incredibly difficult school, so the fact that we have so many graduates is amazing in itself.

Our other issue is that we completely disregard personalities and talents beyond academics. We have people at our school who are musical geniuses, fantastic writers, athletes, actors, etc. We have world champion athletes that we don’t even recognize for their skill because it doesn’t fit our criteria of what a hard worker is, or it simply doesn’t seem to matter in our world. We have people that are so kind and caring and wise as high schoolers that it’s almost unbelievable that they’re teenagers, because we don’t even see those traits in many adults. And yet we forget all the hard work they put in when it is most convenient for us.

Because everyone is different, we can’t all be that kid with a 5.0 and a free ride to Harvard– and a lot of us probably don’t want that to be the standard by which we measure our success.

I’m an actor. I’ve been acting since before I can even remember, even though I wasn’t in my first show until I was 11. I’ve been singing for over a third of my life. I’ve never been able to afford personal teachers or coaches simply because of the fact that I’m not well-off. I’m not even technically considered poor, but because my family isn’t bringing in a minimum of six figures, I have seen utter shock and even fear in the eyes of others when I describe our financial situation. I still act and sing all the time. I work on those things all the time, and not because I’m fueled by the fear of not getting into a good college because I may not be good enough, but because I enjoy it.

I’m disabled. I identify as a minority. I’m a hard worker. I am not afraid of not being the Phi Beta Kappa or not going to an Ivy League, and no one else should be either. For too long, we have let merit be based on stress levels, arrogance, and how many A’s are on our report cards. It’s about time that we start recognizing people for who they are, for their complexities and their challenges, not just for what others deem is “hard work.”

We are all on the same plane, but we have different destinations. Almost everyone here is a hard worker, except we’re all working toward different things and we all have different goals in life. People at this school and all over the world have worked too hard for too long for their achievements to go unacknowledged because of our narrow definition of “hard work” and “success”. Take a second to remember that the people in your life are far more complex than they might appear, and that they might be working a lot harder than you realize.

Because no one has ever become good at anything without hard work– including you.