From the very beginning of my education, I was once called a teacher's worst nightmare; “once” being a key word. I was on the high end of the ADHD spectrum, I had my head up in the clouds, and as some would say, I asked “too many questions.” At the time, I was too young to understand this, but these qualities would allow my teachers to label me as “difficult” throughout my entire education. As a result, I was often left behind and put in classes with students who were disinterested in learning.
The thing about high school is that, if you have older siblings, their reputation will set a precedent for you most of the time. If they shined bright, it’s bound to cast a rather large shadow over you. Many individuals who are in my situation could have lived comfortably in that shadow, but I saw Georgina’s achievements as something to strive for.
She doesn’t know it, but my oldest sister Georgina has influenced my life in extraordinary ways. In high school she was beautiful, intelligent, a high honor roll AP student, and she had the kind of laugh that allowed you to be anywhere in Wegmans and still hear it, and know immediately that she was shopping there as well. She was easy to love.
The blessing of high school was that I got to pick my own classes, and as freshman year approached, I could see that my priorities greatly contrasted from those of my classmates. I took one look at my class environment, defied the advisement of my teachers, and I decided to be an Advanced Placement student. For those who don’t know what AP courses are, they are rigorous high school classes structured like college courses meant to challenge students and prepare them for university.
Despite the workload I was about to receive, on the first day of freshman year I walked into AP World Civilization with a smile on my face. For the first time in my life, I was taking control over all the labels that people put on me. That classroom pushed me as a student, and through accepting that challenge, I started to see myself differently. I now looked at the student with ADHD and saw someone who could be presented with facts and finish at a faster pace; the boy who had his head up in the clouds became someone who was inspired by abstract concepts. The one who was once referred to as “a teacher’s worst nightmare” was now someone who rose to the occasion, taking all those labels given to him by others and turning them into skills.
What had my role model, Georgina, done that allowed me to grow so much? She empowered herself as a person and as a student. Through empowering herself, she challenged those around her. In high school, I’d be in class and suddenly, I’d hear my sister’s laugh echo down the hallway(yes it really carried), and it would strike something in me that really gave me the drive I knew I had. She did this by being staying true to her honest and authentic self.
If I had not challenged the labels that people had put on me, and moved out of the shadows that people had cast over me, I would not be writing this personal essay. I was called “a teacher's worst nightmare,” and for a while, I let that limit me. I limited myself.
Let that speak to you. If you have ever been labeled as something you know does not represent you, defy it. When you empower yourself, you may not realize it, but you empower everyone around you.
James Chamberlain is 20 years old from Leicester, England. He currently lives in New York where he studies Fashion Journalism and minors in Global Gender Studies. James has previously written with The College Fashionista and The Monroe Doctrine.