I learned to bury myself

in exams and exhaustion,

in pink highlighters and black thoughts,

in study guides and late nights,

in straight As and tangled headphones.
I learned everything I was supposed to be,
and everything I wasn’t;
I learned that I could live my best life
and still see pieces of my worst.

I learned that I could run ahead
and still be dragging my feet to keep up.
But everything should be okay
as long as I serve shiny grades on trays

made one hundred percent of gold,
and never let my smile fall beneath a ninety.
Don’t forget,

you’re graded on that too.

It’s not that hard—

but when they hand you a shovel,

make sure you learn where to stand,

or you may look up one day

and find that tests and tiredness buried you too.

Sleep is for extra credit,
but what if I wake up one day
with a degree in one hand

and a career in the other,
and I slowly realize
that somewhere along the way
I forgot to hold on to my heart?

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