Wherein my branch gets cut off from the family tree.

I’m smart.  And I’m pretty good at school.  OK, I kick ass at school.  If I could get paid to go to school I would be very rich.

3.8 unweighted GPA in High School

4.3 weighted GPA in High School

3.8 GPA for my BS

4.0 GPA for my MS

I’m the village idiot compared to my sister and cousins.

Every family values different things…sports, money, fame, beauty, etc.

Majerus…we care about IQ.  And your GPA.  And your SAT scores.  And your ACT scores.  And how your college ranks nationally.

Growing up I remember every time we saw family I would sit silently as my family asked my sister about everything she was doing (Odyssey of the Mind, theater, Math Masters, Gifted and Talented, Model UN, and I can’t think of them all).  Oh yeah…AND she graduated a semester early and went to St. Paul to do an internship at the state capital.  She earned credits from Harvard before she graduated from high school.

I remember after she left for college when I would see family and they would always ask me about my sister.  How was she doing?  What was she studying?  And on and on.  There is a cousin who was a year older than her and it seemed like a never ending competition for who was “smarter.”  One had a higher GPA and the other had a higher weighted GPA.  One had a higher score on the SAT but lower on the ACT.

No one ever asked me about my scores.

I wasn’t involved in these competitions.  I always wanted to pretend I was in the running, but I was always just the family idiot.  And so I learned to be happy with the fact that I had a super awesome, amazing sister.

When I graduated from high school I looked for the highest ranked Liberal Arts College in the Midwest.  That’s like choosing a job based on how many vacation days you get per year…just a plain stupid idea.

I was miserable.  I was so miserable I gave up the fight to be considered as a competitor in the Majerus family tree of smarts.  I went to the community college in our town.  And I resigned myself to be a next to nothing in my family…I was just fooling myself thinking I was in the running anyways.  And I was okay with failing at life.  I thought I had given up my scholarships to the prestigious college (that no one had heard of) and with it I had given up any hope of amounting to anything of worth in my life.

And then I graduated from a state university.  And then I earned my Master’s Degree.

First one in my family.  It didn’t really really count because it was just from a state university.

And then I met Josh, we got married, I started to teach and I made a difference for kids who really needed it, then we had Finn.  And since that time so many more great and difficult things happened.

But (for me) it didn’t really matter where I went to college.  I have created a life where I am beyond happy.

I am not defined by my GPA in high school or college.  I am not a walking number college rank.  And I am certainly not the score I earned on my ACT or SAT.

My sister graduated from one of the top colleges in the nation.  She teaches in one of the neediest school districts in the country.  She has created a life for herself that she is happy and proud of.

Is one of us better than the other?  Was one path right and the other wrong?

In the end, we both ended up where we were supposed to be, in a life that makes up happy.

Every Christmas as my family gathers around the table to talk about scores and schools, my stomach drops.  I know no one will ask me what my GPA or ACT score are (and it would be sad in comparison anyways).  However, I hold my head up high because I’m proud of where I am today and I am simply a collection of the places I’ve been, people I’ve met, and lessons I’ve learned.

When I walk out of that house, I will do so with a smile on my face and holding the hands of my boys.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.  The value of my life isn’t decided by where I went to college, but rather the choices I’ve made and the dedication I’ve put into the journey.

I am proud of my sister and my cousin’s achievements.

I just hope if there is another person sitting around the table who doesn’t feel smart enough or good enough, I want them to know their life isn’t over if they don’t get into a top ranked school or if they’re not sure what they want to be when they grow up.

I wear the village idiot sign proudly and if another cousin does feel the same way I always have, I will stand with them in solidarity because…

Life is what you make of it.

You ARE smart and you ARE of worth in this family.  Be proud of who you are…there is no one else like you around this table or in this world.  And if I could go back to my 14-year-old self…I would tell her that too.

Finn…your worth is not determined by GPA,  or you scores on IQ, SAT, or ACT tests.  It’s not what college you attend.  It’s what in your heart, mind, and soul that counts in the end.  High school and college are really so very small in determining the path of your life.

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6 Responses to Wherein my branch gets cut off from the family tree.

  1. Denise says:

    You are right about grades or colleges. What counts in life is much beyond that!
    Like your family, mine values studies above all. And having two brothers, the comparisons were inevitable. Bad for one of my brothers (because the school didn’t recognize he needed more challenge and he was really bored there), excellent for me up to a certain point and very good to good later, when compared to one of my brothers, then with the status of genius. The other brother was also a “genius” (still is), and I was the black sheep, intelligent but using intelligence for evil things. :(
    We had a lot of pressure to be the best.
    My parents used to say when someone did something awkward or shocking “but he/she has a university degree, how come this?”
    I always told them “a university degree doesn’t buy politeness, or a warm, kind heart”.
    They thought I was wrong about politeness and a kind heart was not exactly needed in practical life.
    But what I really want to say, Kate, is that your Master’s does count; what doesn’t count is where you studied to achieve it – after all, if an institution offers Master’s, it must be qualified for that, or not? Of course! If everybody only goes to Yale, Harvard, MIT, what about the other excellent institutions? Just because they are not Harvard doesn’t mean they must be bad. NO!
    And what does count is what a person feels she/he needs. I’m very sure you are happy with your family, do grades count to show who you really are? Of course its part of ourselves, but does it show whether we are kind hearted, whether we have good principles or not? Our ability to smile? To listen to people, trying to help them?
    I was always told that with so much study, I had to do something “enormous”. I just wanted to be kind, to be able to understand people. Nothing else. For years I felt like a failure, but inside myself that was just what I wanted to be – not a failure, no, I mean I knew it wasn’t a failure for me what the others considered as failure.
    Now I’m still being charged for what I don’t want to do (superb career teaching at a top university – that’s what people expect for me!) and what I really am (I may be that professor, but I myself want to decide that for me. And if I decide I don’t want it, people will think “wasted mind”, while I’ll think “I’m happy with my choice”.)
    So, dear Kate, I’m happy that you are happy with your choices, I’m still discovering mine, don’t ever think you are less because of the other people’s fantastic grades, because you are not.
    What counts is the life that will make us happy, not the life the others want us to live, that will make them happy.
    Denise recently posted..Container problems and "What I wore on Wednesday" new challengeMy Profile

  2. kyooty says:

    If you want these things to not carry weight? stop talking about them. No one knows where I went to Uni, what I took, what I achieved unless it belongs on a resume.
    kyooty recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  3. Vince says:

    If it makes you feel any better, I always considered myself a pretty smart guy. I graduated 7th in my high school class of 400 (don’t know what my average was), graduated for a pretty good school (Rochester Institute of Technology) with a 3.29 GPA, and will finish my MBA with probably a 3.9 GPA. So by most numeric measures, you kicked my ass!

    On a more realistic note, I’ve found that with the exception of a handful of schools (like Harvard or Yale) nobody in the real business world gives a shit where you graduated from. Or even your major. I’m a Chemistry major working in IT. They certainly don’t give a rat’s ass what your GPA was. What counts is that you HAVE the Bachelor’s degree. That in and of itself shows you have the skills to learn and be successful. Not to take away any of the accomplishments of you or your family, but tell your kid the real shame isn’t that you didn’t graduate at the top of your class and get into a prestigious school, the real shame is not achieving your potential. Some people are really good at what they do but weren’t really good at being students.
    Vince recently posted..Time may change me but I can’t change timeMy Profile

  4. Rachael says:

    Kate, this is a great post! I would write more but I’m at a prestigious college that I hate and I have to go study.

  5. Kate says:


    Oh goodness, you make me laugh! On the sunny side, if college doesn’t work out, you could go back to writing your blog!! You’re awesome and super smart and I know with 1000% certainty that whatever you end up doing you’ll kick ass, just because you’re amazing! And after you figure out what you want to be when you grow, could you please figure it out for me too? Thanks.

    :) Kate

  6. maggie says:

    Wonderful post!

    In my family I felt like the loser because of sports… my dad went to university on a hockey scholarship, my mum was on the provincial basketball team, and while i was growing up she coached the league championship team, my brother was all about the sports and a rugby prostar….

    ….and i’m an awkward completely nonathlete. I loathed having to do track and field in elementary school, I despised gym in high school… I often felt like I didn’t quite belong.
    My parents were also smart, my mum had a masters… and that used to be my thing, i was the smart kid, i got good grades and my brother didn’t… then my brother discovered a love for physics… and he got 95+ in like everything in university. and i ended up barely passing vet school….

    BUT! I am the first doctor in the family :) on my dad’s side at least.
    and i have things in my life that make me happy, without being involved in organized sports ;D
    maggie recently posted..The Adventures of BobMy Profile

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