Again

The paper sits face down on the desk.
The teacher is already moving on to the people around me.
Groans of displeasure accompany fist pumps and war cries of a job well done.
The air is thick with one question: “What did you get?”

I wait until the people next to me have turned away.
Slowly, the paper is turned.
Slowly, my eyes travel upward to the numbers circled in red.
Slowly, the cogs of my brain start to spin.

It’s a good mark. A really good mark.
I absolutely cannot complain.
I worked hard for this, I know I did.

The boy on my left turns to me.
“What did you get?”
“Oh, I did pretty well, yeah.” I smile and turn away.
“No, but what was your mark?”
“A number.” I turn away again. He moves onto quizzing the girl on his left.

It’s not that I’m embarrassed.
I’m just tired of being judged for it.
“Yessssss!! I beat her!” Well done you. Jerk.
“She got that mark and I bet she didn’t even try. What a show-off.” Of course I tried, you moron.
“She doesn’t even look happy about it! Way to make me feel bad about what I got.” It’s called modesty, look it up.
“Is she seriously disappointed? With that mark? How arrogant can someone get?” I know I could do better than this. I know I can work harder than this.

But this mark, just now, this is one I’m proud of.
I know I put in the work.
I know I tried my best.
And it paid off.

But amid the mess of voices around me, only one rings clear.
The little voice that sits between my ears.
And this is what is saying:

“Well done. But… Could you do it again?” 

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