Personal Perspective: Ellie Ahles

Superman is one of my favorite heroes; he’s Clark Kent most of the day and no one suspects him of being any more. Obviously I’m no Superman, but there are things about me no one else cares to know about. I’m multifaceted: I’m a little naive, a little odd, a dreamer, a believer, occasionally optimistic, slightly scatterbrained, always honest, driven, determined, mostly sarcastic and the list goes on and on. Every side of me has been competing to shout something from this platform, but every idea faces a roadblock of fear. I want to use this space to talk about my curls, but fear no one will understand why they’re so significant to me. I want to use this space to explain my current frustration with my friends, but fear they will not understand it and will leave me behind without asking me. Because of this internal mismatch, I’m now staring at a split screen the night before my deadline, viewing a blank page for the story I had three weeks to write and five single-spaced pages of ideas I may never even speak of.
I’m a contradiction. I am boisterous, yet I silence myself. There is a simple reason for my uncertainty: mental pressure. 
Stress is a very simple word. It is one syllable and in the top one percent of lookups on Merriam-Webster. Expectation is four syllables and in the top 20 percent of word lookups. Both are used frequently, though if you’re a student at TPHS, you have certainly already noticed. Despite the differences between the two words: length, syllables, popularity and meaning; they’re still synonyms. 
My stress originates from my self-renewing and never-ending to-do list that I’m devoted to getting done. It stems from constant  expectations of more and a drive for self-improvement. I have the work ethic of my father, a man who stays up all hours of the night working and only eats and sleeps when he needs to. Naturally, I can’t imagine a day someone convinces me there’s no more work to do, but if somehow my to-do list were permanently completed I’d be satisfied sitting in a library all day to soak up the knowledge. So yes, I’m a contradiction to myself — at this point it’s just one more thing for the list. 
“Expectation” also carries a notable weight. Burden and oppression seem to have become close connotations to the word, as “expectations” have seemingly come to mean what is demanded of me rather than what is hoped from me. My coaches expect me to be incredibly athletic, my teachers expect me to be overwhelmingly intelligent and my parents  — loving as they are — merely expect me to have an unbreakable moral compass. Worst still are all the expectations I’ve saddled myself with somewhere in my transition from the white-blonde wavy haired and gap-toothed little girl I was in the past to the dark brunette, curly- haired and tight-lipped smiling female I am now. I gave myself a whole slough of high expectations, though they could all be summed up in three words, “be the best.” I thought it was normal to struggle under the stress of it all. 

When I first met now former assistant principal Gary Thornton, he gave me a quote about how pressure makes diamonds and that I’d shine soon — I was having a bad day at the time, but he was not entirely wrong. 
College is supposedly a growing experience of monumental proportion; my sister describes it as “adulting” and my brother referenced the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychological phenomenon in which people think they’re much smarter than they are, that comes with a graph labeled with categories like “Peak of ‘Mt. Stupid’” and “Slope of Enlightenment.” Some may think the same could be said about high school, but universities produce more polished members of society, not know-nothing, half-baked adults at the Peak of Mt. Stupid.

Naturally, maturation from secondary school is not achieved without experiencing challenges, and the most difficult challenges result in the most growth once they are overcome; so Thornton’s rather cliche quote is still accurate when applied to people. I am more than a collection of nerves and the burnout after a particularly stressful week, I’m a potpourri of different, seemingly contradictory personality traits.

I’m a student, what my elementary teachers called a “lifelong learner” — it means I’m in for the long haul when it comes to my education — so I spend my days reading, studying and absorbing information. Although I, like most people, like to hang out with my friends in my spare time, sometimes I prefer to be by myself. “Loner” may accurately describe how I get along just fine with a Disney or superhero movie marathon on TV while eating mountains of popcorn some days, but it doesn’t describe how I feel on days when my boisterous laughter has left me with aching cheeks after I’ve spent time with my friends. I’m not normally a challenger, but that doesn’t mean I won’t rise given the chance. Expectations and stress inevitably affect us all, but I’m a problem solver. Despite any internal conflict over who I am, that’s a fact. Any attempted organizational system will only minimize, not remove, the effect of mental pressure and, like it or not, the way it overwhelms me is also a part of who I am.

I’m a lot of things. Eventually, the people in my life will recognize that it’s much easier to get to know each side of me and eventually piece everything together rather than attempt to understand the whole picture at once.

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