The beauty and truth in the ordinary

“The greatest mistake a man can make is to search for flowers among the weeds, overlooking the fact that oftentimes, the very weeds are flowers.” — Rigby

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Graphic Illustration by Sharlene Chen

Most of all, I remember, through all the papercuts, misaligned holes and empty staplers, my ambition to win the most prestigious accolades.

Elliu Huang

On my Ikea Billy bookcase rests 61 notebooks and 37 binders. I remember the lazy summer mornings, practicing completing the square from an algebra workbook in one of my many notebooks. I remember the dim weekend nights, filing away a 30-page practice ACT test that I had just completed that afternoon in a 2-inch binder. Most of all, I remember, through all the papercuts, misaligned holes and empty staplers, my ambition to win the most prestigious accolades.

The same drive that propelled me through countless hours of physics lectures and AP prep eventually translated to college applications. The intense competition of the environment, pressure to live up to the expectations of my older brother and desire to succeed (plus a certain nagging from a large “non-profit” acorn) pushed me to work harder to stand out in the sea of equally-qualified college applicants.

Through more than a decade of grade school, my only goal was to edge out my competition and prove myself as a top college applicant. I believed the halcyon days of routine — breakfast, school and prep work — were the only way to impress those around me and become the best.  

But with college apps in the twilight and the next chapter of my life on the horizon, the desire to compete is quickly fading. Of course, I will still work hard in college, and the competition will resurface when I enter a contract that drains our blood, sweat and tears for money. But what about later in life when I’ve settled down and have no more external motives? I keep wondering, Why am I doing all of this? What do I gain from scoring higher than someone on a chemistry test?

It took a whiny, careless, high school dropout trash panda from one of my favorite cartoons to tell me.

Rigby, the anthropomorphized raccoon and main character in The Regular Show, works for minimum wage at an urban park with his best friend because it’s the only job he can find without a high school diploma. After seven seasons of a happy-go-lucky life at the park, Rigby, inspired by his friends and family, finally sets his mind to completing his high school education.

Following months of geology classes, high school jocks and uninspired teachers, Rigby graduates from high school. While it may not feel as special to me or even to his friends and coworkers at the park, earning his diploma meant so much more to Rigby: He accomplished something on his own because he wanted to.

“I did these things for myself — not to impress anyone, but because I’m surrounded by impressive people, people who lifted me up and showed me that it’s possible to do great, hard things,” Rigby said in his graduation speech.

Although admitting that jealousy and wanting to impress his friends initially motivated him to finish high school, Rigby later realizes the beauty and satisfaction of learning new things and becoming a better person that allows him to live a better, happier and more complete life.

Watching him grow up from an irritating and entitled brat to an inspiring and down-to-earth guy reminds me of how grateful I am for how far I’ve come, what I’ve accomplished and the people I’ve met — my parents who will always push me to the higher levels, my brother who will always look back for me, my friends who showed me that it’s possible to achieve the best, teachers and staff who have supported me in my endeavors and the myriad of people who have, one way or another, inspired me to improve myself.

As I make my way through my final classes at Lynbrook, I’ll remember Rigby’s words and remind myself that I’m not doing all these things to be better than others, but rather to become a better person, surrounded by wonderful people.