When I heard the garage door open, I ran down to the kitchen and waited. I saw my dad come up the front walk, the white envelope in his hand. I had waited all day for this. As soon as he set foot in the house, I reached over him to grab it and almost knocked over the cash drawer he was holding. Irritated, he threw the envelope on the table and said that it was nothing to get excited over, it was just a piece of paper. I grabbed it and headed for my bedroom. I wondered why my dad did not understand how anxious I was to see my mid-year report card for my first year in high school. I was really hurt by how he dismissed all my hard work.
I closed my door and stood in the middle of my room, my head spinning with confusion. I unfolded the report card and saw my class rank: 1/193. It seemed as if time stopped; I stopped crying, held my breath, blinked my eyes, and took another look. I did not believe what I saw. I felt my lips form a smile and wanted to run downstairs to tell everyone. Then I remembered what my dad had said - it was nothing to get excited about. I wanted to share my happiness with someone, but felt alone.
Sitting on my bed, I came to the shocking realization that I had become distant from my family. We used to stay up late and watch Disney movies, and my brothers, sisters and I would play badminton in the backyard all the time. I wondered when all that had stopped. Then I realized that those late-night movies and afternoon badminton games had not stopped, I just no longer took part in them. My schoolwork consumed all my time and energy.
While I had been following my ambition for academic perfection, I had also built a wall between me and my family. I was only trying to become a person everyone could be proud of, but somewhere along the line, I let that goal take over my life.
I wanted to go downstairs, apologize for my rude behavior and every missed movie and badminton game, and be part of my family again. I knew I had to do something because without their support, my accomplishments meant nothing.
I turned the doorknob and headed downstairs. As I stood in the kitchen, my dad motioned me to sit down. The understanding look on his face told me he knew exactly how I felt.
“Carolyn, your mother and I are extremely proud of you, but we do not want your schoolwork to define who you are because it is just a part of you,” he said. I released a huge sigh of relief. My dad opened a white box to reveal a dozen cannolis, my favorite pastry. He had bought them to celebrate my report card.
My family is so very important and I would not jeopardize that relationship for anything. They taught me how critical it is to balance different parts of my life and I realize that otherwise I will miss out on the best things: delicious cannolis, watching “Toy Story” for the fiftieth time, or seeing the smile on my younger brother’s face. Although my head might be in the clouds filled with soaring aspirations, my family keeps my feet firmly grounded.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.