Confessions of an Over-Achiever

It may come as a surprise to many of my professors over the years, but I am actually a slacker. I am a procrastinator. I take advantage of the system.

My personal motto is “work smart, not hard,” and if I can repurpose an old essay, project or idea I will do it in a heartbeat. I really don’t want to do any more work than I have to.

I work really hard at the beginning of semesters for the sole purpose of being able to slack off later in the year. If I rack up 50 bonus points early on, and then only have to make a 40 on the final exam to keep my A in the class, that means I get a free ride. Do I study for that test? No sir, I do not. I go in and answer the questions I know and fill in random bubbles for the questions I don’t. Confessions of an overachiever: We’re not overachievers to be the best. We’re overachievers so we build wiggle room to be lazy.

Sometimes my definition of “bare minimum” is different from that of others’, however. For some, the bare minimum is whatever is necessary to get a C and graduate. For me, it’s whatever is necessary to get an A and graduate at the top. But it’s still the bare minimum.

And that still only applies to classes and assignments that I feel are relevant and useful. Intro to music? History of theatre? I think I only went to class for the exams. Last-minute busy work assignments that I know won’t get graded before grades are due? Forget it. Final exams in courses that drop the lowest score? I won’t even look at it. (Almost lost my 4.0 that way once, but that was a long time ago and I’ve refined my method since then.)

I know people will say, “When you get out into the work force you can’t count on racking up points. You’ll have to do the work.” Yes, and I plan to. I’ll work hard when it benefits me and the work is applicable. This is not always true in the classroom setting.

Another confession (pay attention Dr. R): I do not like to be at the top of everything all the time. In the English department here, there is one particular student who is a wonderful writer; we’ll call her “Christy.” Every spring the department hosts a writing contest with four categories, and Christy wins every category every year without fail. She’s very good at what she does and her pieces deserve to win, but it’s very discouraging to all the rest of us who work all semester only to know we don’t stand a chance of winning.

This past spring, I finally got an email saying I had placed in a category. I was so excited! The mister and I attended the awards banquet and the first three category winners were announced. Christy won two of them and I got honorable mention in one. The last category came up and I was on the edge of my seat, so excited to hear my name finally called as a winner. I had gotten a notice, after all. But, to my great shock and disappointment, I was called honorable mention again. . .  and Christy took home the prize for a third category. There’s nothing wrong with honorable mention awards, but I was crushed to have come so close and still lost twice to the same person I’d been fighting against for four years.

I don’t want to be someone else’s Christy. I don’t want to be that student that makes others not even want to compete because they already know the outcome. There are lots of students in my department that work very hard and are good at what they have chosen to study. They deserve honor and praise as much or more than I do.

When my advertising class had a campaign competition earlier this semester, I was chosen as a top-five finalist and I had expected this, to be frank. But I was hoping I would not win – that someone else would have that chance. And I didn’t. The girl who won had a good campaign and I had enjoyed her materials; she deserved it.

She wasn’t in class the day the winner was announced, and one of her friends told us all she had gotten a text from the girl earlier that said, “Just text me when Erin wins.” She had given up the fight, assuming I would take home the prize, and hadn’t even come to class that day. I’m glad she got it. I’m glad it wasn’t me. I don’t want to be someone else’s Christy.

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