GPA Withdrawal syndrome

Astral Worlds by Vasyl Tsagolov

Another interesting anonymous letter to publish:
“Hi, my name is X, and I am an A+holic.
I’ve been addicted to good grades since the earliest years of my life — not surprising, given that I was born and raised in a classical Asian family with high expectations. Unlike a lot of those, who were in the same situation, I never complained, because my utterly conformist nature harmonically fitted into the harsh reality of competition and ambition. It seems that from the beginning I was destined to become a gunner — my interests and hobbies miraculously coincided with the demands of educational system, and from there my addiction progressed like an exponential function or a positive feedback mechanism, if you wish. Similarly, nothing outside of academic nutshell seemed to attract me, — and once again, I’ve never felt disgruntled by this; rather I always maintained the sober realization that if I were to attempt to venture outside of the realm of my school expertise, I would likely be disappointed by the outer world with its philistine pleasures.

High Expectations Asian Father by unknown artist

As I look back, I come to conclusion that I’ve never been sincerely interested in the knowledge that was presented — if we were living in some absurd reality, where school education was all about memorizing useless things like “Hotline Bling” lyrics translated into all dialects of Eskimo-Aleut language family, I would still buy into that shit and excel in my studies. The true passion of my life was the almighty, holy score — yes, I always treated it to be a game, the ultimate quest of my existence.
 Now, don’t fall into temptation to think that I used to be a nerdy no-lifer: just to sustain my addiction, I’ve always revolved in social circles that were made of people with similar mindset. Needless to say, we spent a lot of times chatting, cramming and casually complaining about workload — humans don’t really discriminate when it comes to the choice of topic for routine discourse; believe me, you can have emotional and deep fulfilling conversations based solely on casual academic themes.

From what I can judge, my generation is just another nameless link of this endless perpetuation of human addiction to success. Just to clarify, I use word “addiction” without negative connotation — we should be honest with ourselves to admit that a lot of addictions are innocuous or even beneficial for survival, just like food, water, air or success in this case. The nuance is in the motivation behind this addiction.
 Most of the other a+holics I knew came up with various illusive constructs to rationalize their dependence on academic success. Some were attracted to the concept of reaching their “dream”, whether it was made of money, social status, ideal family, trophy wives/husbands, fame or power, insert your fetish here. Some were really into the pathos of appreciating the knowledge that they gained through education. Some were actually really honest and admitted that they are just mindlessly following the will of their family and the pressure of society. At the end of the day, majority of them reached their goals through hard work, achieved what is considered conventional success and probably adjusted to the life outside of educational bubble. I would even say all of them — except me…

Monkeys by Mark Bryan

As I mentioned before, I didn’t see any fancy goals in my educational career — I saw it as it is, just a naked game with winners and losers. Instead of trying to analyze the system, I blindly accepted it on the literal level — highest scores were the only source of my satisfaction, and I didn’t need anything beyond that.

I fell in love once in my life — I fell in love with the simple, fair and just rules of the school system, in which I was forming in complete isolation from the outside world. This relationship started maybe in middle school, maybe even in elementary school — I don’t know, but I know that nothing can last forever.

So I graduated from high school with stellar marks, content with myself and eager for more challenges in future. If you take a look from outside, this transition of state is nothing more than a minute event like hatching of a chicken or upgrade of game character on the new level. While my fellow competitors embarked on top universities in Canada — mcgill, u of t, mcmaster health sci, some random brutal program in waterloo, — whateves, who cares cause I went on the completely different level: I choose one of the most sadistic engineering programs at MIT, just because my lifestyle was constant fighting for scores.

Edmond Duranty by Edgar Degas

Ah, December and April, my two favourite months of the year, the times of the year, when I could seclude myself from the outer world to spend time protecting my virgin 4.0 GPA. As the adrenaline rush would finish with the end of finals season and scores on my transcript would slowly make appearance, I would get my dose of serotonine and dopamine. Everything else is just a whim, nothing more but vanity, compared to these sweet moments, for which my sick addicted mind would crave for months of darkness and dullness.
Those were the brightest days of my life — the life that in fact never belonged to me, but was rather in absolute bondage to her majesty GPA. As I graduated with all possible academic honours, I got hit by the worst reality in my life — the game was over.

It wasn’t a problem to find employment in one of the top companies with my stellar background, but just after few weeks I realized that this is the end — my beloved bubble burst, the system, which raised me, spitted me out into the alien, unfamiliar world with bizarre, unclear and ambiguous rules. The worst things in this world was the absolute lack of reference points — no scores to quantify your value.

“A visit of visionaries to Vitoria” by Kozyndan

The world of delusional monads that roam in chaos and come up with their petty illusive “meanings of life”.
 My scholar-gamer philosophy collided with the concrete wall of incomprehension, just like a brand new car on a crash test.
 Staying in academia wasn’t an option too, because neither research nor teaching really interested me. So I didn’t come up with a better solution but to come back to the level of undergrad.
 I repeated those happy four years in several cycles — I was in huge debt, but I didn’t care, cause I had nothing to do outside of the educational process.
 Now I am 40 years old, I have 5 undergraduate degrees. At first university admission committees were suspicious, but after my fifth degree they all started to feel aversion and disgust towards my abnormal behaviour, but I couldn’t care less.

A+holic once — a+holic 4 life”

by Pawel Kuczynski
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