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On My Tippy Toes

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I almost pissed my pants the first day of freshman year.

I am also aware I just announced this to the whole world via the Internet where it will never, ever be erased, amen.

And I'm dead serious. It was mad scary. I was a little fish in a big pond; no, a speck of plankton swimming blindly in the vast ocean waiting anxiously for a whale to swallow me up whole. All upperclassmen were kings or even gods, out of reach and untouchable. Teachers were like vultures eyeing a lost puppy in the desert. I felt as if the Jaws theme song played over loud speakers every time I stepped, walked, talked, sat, blinked, breathed. And everyone was tall. Like Yao Ming tall. Of course, that's expected from someone who started her growth spurt early and ended at five feet. But in every aspect, I was small. I felt like I had to crane my neck and stoop up to my tippy toes just to see eye-to-eye with everyone. So naturally, I thought I would feel the same about everything else: my grades, my self-confidence, my sanity. I thought they would plummet down like the American economy.

You'd probably want me to say a cliché about how first impressions are almost always wrong or how my whole life turned around after an inspirational experience. Something like "things never go the way you expect; let the waves of fate keep you on a steady current." Although it could be true at times, the sad and harsh truth is that inspirational experiences happen to people who honestly, truly need it, the people who are empty, lost, waiting for something to save them when all other options are exhausted. For those who want one but don't necessarily need one have to work for one.

I'm the latter.

I'm not here to tell you about how something life-changing happened to me. I didn't win a Nobel Peace Prize. I'm not a child-prodigy (yet). I'm just a teenager. A hormonal, unstable, over-emotional teenager just like the millions trying to survive this shark tank of high school. I'm writing not just my story, but probably someone else's as well.

Wake up, hopefully at 5:30, but if not, 6 a.m. Daily routine of dressing, brushing teeth, etc. Go to school at 6:45 for zero period (the period before school starts) and watch my mother zoom away in her Honda Pilot. Stars are still out, look at the moon, walk to jazz band class in freezing weather. Play an instrument that's half my size and about 15 pounds. Go along with my AP/Honors classes. Eat lunch. Chill for five minutes. Give up half my lunch time to practice my baritone saxophone. Go to class. After school, pretend to die as Ophelia in Hamlet in drama club. Or write up articles for the school's publication, Voices from the Trail. Or eat some crepes at French club. Or suit up in my marching band outfit for football games or basketball games. Or tutor seventh graders. Or visit my old teachers to help them grade and keep them company during the evening. Come home around 6:30 p.m., or around 11 on my bad days. Feed my beagles. Eat with the family. Facebook. Get free tutoring on Algebra 2, earn some cash, and get a few "ooh!" moments when I finally understand my math homework on Slader.com. Wash the dishes. Chores. Chores. Chores. Start homework around 9 or 10 p.m. Work until around 11 or 12 on my good days, 4 or 5 a.m. on my bad days. Sleep for a few hours.

Wake up and start over.

I sometimes find myself asking what I'm doing (but really, what's school without stress?). I always thought of myself as a waitress; balancing plates around my arms and hands, dodging and tripping, trying to serve everyone as best as I can so I can get my paycheck. Several times, I'm at my desk at three in the morning, eye bags to the floor, pencil in my hand, so very close to insanity. No lie. And I really am not the only one. I see my friends, my sisters, even my role models with tears down their worn-out faces, tired of being tired. I see people shake their heads and tell me like a constant tape recorder, "You do too much." And when they ask why, for God's sake, why do I spend about 20 hours a day awake and about four sleeping; sometimes even I don't know the answer to that.

Success? Of course, who doesn't want to succeed? It's human nature. School feels like a job almost all the time. Parents? For most of us. It's natural for a parent to want their kid to become a good student. Some even feel that parents just want to take credit for your work as their kid. But honestly, sometimes if you really dig down to the core of the adolescent, it's to prove -- to prove to the people and the little voice in our heads that doubt us that they're wrong. For our friends who would look down at us for not doing the "cool" thing. For our peers who call us "stupid." For the parents who want us to be someone else that we don't want to be. For the teachers who gave up on us. For the little voice in our head that just won't accept anything else but perfection. We want to have the ability to tell them that they can suck it. Suck it for doubting.

Of course, each person's story is different, which means it all depends on who they are and what they went through (insert another cliché about self-originality). However, let's turn our heads to science. Hormones. Testosterone. Estrogen. That's the same in every teenager. The squeaky voices turning into Tarzan. The once-geeky girl turns into a man magnet. And your dad who you once waited excitedly for to get home is lecturing you more and more. But more importantly, inner rebels come out like the Incredible Hulk.

With statistics such "By their 19th birthday, seven in 10 teens of both sexes have had intercourse" and "80 percent of smokers begin before the age of 18," the image of a teen in society continues to be dented each year. How people view us, how we view them, and how we react to their stares mutate differently as time goes onto the next generation. Some individuals find themselves to become one of the statistics because they think that's what expected of their behavior. Others have their hormones kick in to become the natural rebels they are and become the exact opposite of what they are expected. Why? Not because it's the right thing to do, but because we like proving superiors, the people with all their eyes down on us, wrong. We like power. With power, there's no "good enough," because there's only two options: right or wrong. This creates a new fear for teenagers, a good kind of fear, fear of not being good enough for themselves and not for anybody else. We change into someone we want to be proud of. It feels like a huge slap in the face if we fail ourselves.

Because really, who do teenagers love more than themselves? For a lot of us, very close to nobody. It's the fuel to keeps us up at night finishing the last of the biology project or studying for the final. It's our energy drink, our caffeine, our sugar rush to keep us from falling asleep.

It's one of the many things in high school that aren't typed in a textbook. This is the age where anything is possible and no one can tell us what we can and can't do. Why do you think all the best stories from our parents come from the words "When I was your age..."?

But honestly, I can't exactly finish this thought. How can I write about high school if I haven't even finished the whole high school experience? Then again, you can't actually complete the whole high school experience, because we're all still sad, upturned, rebellious teenagers in the end. The only difference is that wherever we go, it's just another school. Another jungle to survive, another end to a story, another start to a new one, another page turned, another cliché relived once again, but more importantly, another day to almost piss in your pants the first day.

Special thanks to: Kyle Gerrity, Scott Kolb, and Emily Finley for this opportunity and to their baby, Slader.com, for being my educational superhero and helping me pass my classes. Lastly, to Nevin Vo, Ethan Wong, Cindy Giang, and Kelley Ho. Thanks for the inspiration, pointers, and pushing away the writer's block. Here's your virtual fist-pump. Boom.