Don't Expect Me To Be Perfect

I am a 16-year-old Korean-American. My family has been in the United States for six years now. I'll be a junior next fall.

When I first came to the States, it took two years before I could speak English fluently. By the time I started middle school, I realized that most of my fellow students had never met many kids like me before. They had this idea, probably from TV and movies, that all Asians are smart. It's true that some are. I know many smart people. But what about those Asians who aren't so smart? Having a reputation for brains is nice, I guess, but it can also be a pain. For instance, sometimes when my classmates do not know something, they come to me for the answer. Often I can help them. But when I can't, they get these weird expressions on their faces. If I were a genius, I would not mind being treated like one. But since I am not, I do.

The problem isn't just limited to the classroom; My mother and father expect an awful lot from me, too. Like so many Korean parents, and many ambitious American parents, they're very competitive and can't help comparing me with other kids. Mine always say to me, "So and so is so smart, works so hard and is so good to his or her parents. Why can't you be more like him or her?" Because I am the oldest kid in my family, they expect me to set a good example for my younger sisters and relatives. They'd rather I concentrate on school work than dating. They want me to be No. 1.

Most of the time I want to do well, too. I'm glad I take all honors classes. But now that I am at those levels, I have to be on my toes to keep doing well. The better I do, the more pressure I seem to place on myself. Because my parents want me to be perfect--or close to perfect--I find myself turning into a perfectionist. When I do a project and make one little error. I can't stand it. Sometimes I stay up as late as 2 a.m. doing homework.

I don't think I would be like this if my parents weren't motivating me. But I don't think they know what pressure can do to a teenager. It's not that they put me down or anything. They have plenty of faith in me. But to tell the truth, sometimes I really like to be lazy, and it would be nice just to take it easy and not worry so much about my grades all the time. Maybe my parents know this. Maybe that's why they encourage me to be better. Well, it still drives me crazy when they compare me with others. I wonder if those smart kids have parents like mine.

Sure, I'm proud of who I am, and I love my parents very much. But then there are times I just feel like taking a break and going far away from parents and teachers. Of course that's impossible, but it's always nice to dream about it.