By Latesha Johnson | firstname.lastname@example.org
He told me I couldn’t do it. He told me I wasn’t capable of being the class valedictorian or salutatorian. So I did it. Not to make him feel like a jerk or gain satisfaction from proving him wrong, but I did it to prove to myself that I could do it. My mindset has always been that you tell me what I can’t do, and I’ll do it.
I was walking down the hallway my sophomore year of high school and a group of my friends came up to me and told me that our history teacher said that I didn’t have the potential to finish with the first or second highest GPA in my graduating class. They said the students in the class were all just naming people who they thought would finish at the top and my name came up. But he didn’t agree with whoever made the comment and went on to name a few students who he thought would receive the honors.
I didn’t have history until the next class period, so after lunch I was ready to go into class and ask him about what I had heard. When I did, he didn’t deny it at all. He told me to my face that I was not capable of being the class valedictorian or salutatorian. I wanted to ask him why he felt that way, but I didn’t. I just made up my mind that very moment that I was going to use his doubt as my motivation. I was going to do it, no matter how many hours of studying and tutoring it took to make it happen. And from that day forward, I made sure that I would get all As on every report card, and maybe a B every now and then.
Before that day, I couldn’t have even told you what a valedictorian or salutatorian was, but I knew it was going to be me, and neither my teacher nor trigonometry, as hard as it was, was going to change that. So, I had to sacrifice some things. There were days when I wanted to go to the movie theater and to the beach with my friends, but most times I would pass up the opportunity just so I could stay home and study a little harder. I knew that it was important to have a balance between school and fun activities, but I also knew that I wanted to work hard more than I wanted to have fun. So I just decided to use sports as my get away of fun. If I wasn’t at basketball or flag football practice, I was doing some kind of school work.
Being named the class salutatorian my senior year was one of my greatest accomplishments and had I not put forth the effort to make it happen, it probably wouldn’t have been. That teacher retired before my senior year and he was not able to see me receive my award, but I never cared about how it would make him look. I cared about how it would make me look and how it would make me feel. My accomplishment showed me that I could do anything I wanted to do and that only I could determine who I wanted to be and who I was going to be.
In life, we all come across a negative voice; the voice of another person telling us what we can’t do and trying to define who we are. But the fact of the matter is, as long as that voice does not become our own voice, we are still in control of our destiny. But that negative voice won’t go away, and we shouldn’t want it to. Instead, we should replay it over and over in our minds using it to create something positive.
Through this experience and throughout life I’ve learned that success does not come without a drive and willingness to sacrifice time and backseat priorities. When you make a decision to be successful you have to stick with it, regardless of anything or anyone who is trying to get in the way. For me, I decided that I was going to focus more on my education and dedicate myself to putting in the extra effort to graduate at the top of my class. And even if I didn’t receive that honor my hard work would have paid off in life, which is the greatest honor of all.