I’m stuck on the Fast Track

I overwork myself.

I take too many classes, do too many assignments, and care too much about maintaining a four-digit number that will be irrelevant in a matter of years.

People often ask me, “Why do you do this to yourself?”

The answer, in my opinion, is I was bred to be this way; bred by the system, bred by the expectations for the academically gifted.

In first grade, I was instructed to linger in the classroom during lunch in order to take a “benchmark test.” This assessment, in actuality, was an evaluation of my math skills to see if I was “advanced” enough to skip a year’s worth of math.

As it turns out, I was.

That test put me on what I refer to as the “Fast Track.” The seemingly inescapable path of academia that students deemed gifted are placed on for what seems like an eternity.

That math class began my journey into high-level classes, and I never grew out of taking them.

Advanced math led to the Gateways program, which led to Challenge classes, which led to Honors courses, which lead to AP classes.

Throughout my years in school, there have been nights where I heavily debate my enrollment in a course. The workload often seems unbearable, the tests impossible, and the topics too confusing to comprehend.

Yet even after infinite inner turmoils, every spring, I always end up in the classes I told myself I didn’t need to take. I technically have the option to opt out of a course; I can exit the “Fast Track” whenever I please.

But it feels as if the exit is blocked.

To me, advanced classes are a part of who I am. I have always taken them, always performed well in them, so I keep driving down the Fast Track. The Fast Track, while may look appealing to colleges, is a bumpy drive.

Starting advanced classes at such a young age made me feel as if it was expected of me to take them. Everyone in my life has always expressed their amazement and pride in my academic success; there has never been any pressure to exceed any expectations. Yet I somehow developed these unrealistic expectations for myself.

To me, not taking AP or Honors classes is taking away a part of myself. Success in school has defined me for my whole life, to the point where I feel like without it, I am nothing.

So yes, I overwork myself. And yes, I could have opted out of that one extra AP class.

But it’s not as easy as taking an exit when it’s chipping away at the very base of who you are.