When I was in 5th grade, sticker trading was really big in my school and The Simpsons premiered on television. I mention this because, for a few months, the most coveted stickers were not oilies, or fuzzies or scratch and sniffs. They were a plain sheet of Simpsons stickers that were impossible to find. My mom and I scoured practically every store within a ten-mile radius of our house until, finally, we found them at a big indoor flea market that was a few town overs.
A couple of months later, my mom saw a Simpsons poster and--thinking me a rabid fan (instead of the conformist I was actually being)--bought it for me. It looked like this:
...and it hung in the bedroom I shared with my sister for years.
Years later, it was my sister who pointed out to me the irony of us not only having a poster that said Underachiever on it but one that was given to us by our mother.
The thing is, one of the cardinal rules of being in my family was doing the best you can at everything you can. And excelling academically was a top priority. Really, getting below a 90 on my report card was basically unacceptable.
I know this sounds a bit harsh now but the thing is, my parents knew I was capable of getting over a 90 and they thought it was important that I try to always achieve what I was capable of. To be fair to them, they did not push me that hard in things I was clearly awful at. Like hand-eye coordination. Or not reading during family functions.
Sometimes, it created some pressure. But, mostly, I know raising me with those values gave me a ton of self-discipline and a desire to push myself to excel. Two things that led me to write, to finish a manuscript, to finish another manuscript when that one didn't go anywhere (and repeat), to revise, revise, and revise. To always want to be better than I was before.
Even though that meant I basically got no sick days off from school and grief for getting an 89 in Chemistry one semester...I'm grateful. I don't know who I'd be without that drive that was instilled in me.
So, Bart Simpson. Eat my shorts!