An Open Letter To A Girl I Used To Know: You Were Never A Failure

A few days ago I was scrolling down my Facebook timeline (yes, some of us still use the platform) when I came across a post by one of my middle school mate. She had shared a post published by a prestigious private school of my city appreciating her contributions to their school and how proud they were to have her as part of the team. Now some of you may be wondering why this is of any interest to me, after all we all have perfectly currated Facebook timelines with people raving about their accomplishments. But this case was different and let me tell you why.

I had always been a high achiever my entire life. I was a good student, got good grades, was part of the student councils, participated in school activities, in short never had any trouble breezing through my school life. I was the model student. Now in my class there was this one girl, she garnered as much attention as someone like me but for the exact opposite reason. She was not good at studies. She failed all class tests, would continuously score at the bottom of the class, would need tutoring and still perform below average. And she was bullied by the teachers because of that.

In my experience, most of the educators love the minimum effort, shining star students that they know will succeed in life. They encourage them, build them up and want to help them get even better. But give them a problem child, a student that actually needs their help and they would get frustrated. This is what happened to that girl. She used to be put on display in front on the class when results were announced, teachers would openly ask students like me to help students like her in front of everyone. At that age, I didn’t realise how traumatic this would be for her, I didn’t know that the teachers were wrong to put her on the spot like that. Instead I was taught that she’s a failure and it’s her fault for not working hard. It was easier to accept that she failed because she was lazy and did not want to put up any effort. I remember having some fun moments with her at the lunch breaks and after school hours. She was fun and street smart. She knew more about the real world than I did and I enjoyed talking to her about these topics. We were never friends but I like to think we were decent enough with each other and I would categorize us as acquaintances.

Well life moved on, we grew up and went about our different pathways. I went to med school and became a doctor. I was expected to succeed in life from the very start and I did. It came as no surprise to anyone in my life, I just walked the pathway that was expected from me. A few years after middle school, in the days when Facebook was the coolest new thing, I got a friend request from her. I accepted it and that was the sum of our interaction on social media. Our only contact would be through whatever stuff we would post. We were virtual strangers who just happen to know what big moments were happening in each other’s lives.
So when one day she posted about her graduation with a degree in education, I was a tiny bit surprised but didn’t think much about it. Then a few months passed by and I saw another post about her starting a new job as a teacher. Now that surprised me, because I remembered that little girl from school. And I thought, “Well good for her.” Over the next few years, I would see her posting about her accomplishments, see her getting tagged in posts of her getting some award or another. I saw her getting appreciated for being a good educator, of people telling her how proud they were of her. And each time a tiny part inside me would see her post and feel proud on her behalf. Seeing her most recent post of her being made the branch head of a leading private school, made me feel proud of what she had achieved. She, the girl who was told repeatedly as a child that she was a failure, that if she didn’t get the grades she would fail in life, had made something of herself. She did not give up, maybe somewhere along the path she got the motivation to rise above the expectations. And she prevailed.

She is an inspiration to me. She overcame the odds stacked up against her and made something of herself. Today she is grooming the future generations and excelling at that. I couldn’t tell this to her, afraid she might get offended or think that I am being condesending. I don’t want to tell her that “Hey! I remember you from middle school and you were a bad student but kuddos for not letting that get to you and succeeding in life.” I don’t know her well enough to mention her past in such a casual way. But if somehow, someway she reads this and somehow relates to the story I want to tell her that she is a role model and I wish her all the best. She deserves recognition for what she has made out of her life and I hope one day I get the courage to tell her so myself.

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