To Fill a Paper

My teenage years often feel some sort of sick competition, as I watch college applications and academic success swallow so many students like myself. Though it may not actually be the case, the feeling of having your future determined by the actions you make as a seventeen-year-old is terrifying. In addition to that, being surrounded by other’s success as well as your family putting certain expectations on you can take over your mental health, all during a period of your life when you feel you don’t have the time to take care of yourself. This poem encompasses my feelings of being an overwhelmed teenager with big dreams navigating the formidable world of college applications and high school life.

. . .

As if a race and a game at the same time

Twisted and tarnished with souls left behind

We all want to scream

We hold onto a fragile dream


Whispers of success make your heart sink

Terrified your biggest hopes will be gone in a blink

It’s a challenge to support someone else’s win

When we all know it’s just a sick competition


Days are longer, sleep is shorter, and friends fall out

It isn’t an option, anymore, to burn out

We lose our minds because it’s safer

It’s all to fill a paper


Expectations wrapped around our necks and dreams right out of reach

Reality takes a swing for us each

Every day another push into what could all be for nothing

Yet it’s still a true privilege to feel this suffering


We want to stand out and keep up

Make them proud and get back up

Even if inside we’re falling apart

We hope the payoff’s worth our broken hearts


Rampant with emotion, yet feeling like an imposter

At the end of the day, just a name on a roster

We’re a piece of paper in the end

We don’t know which parts of us are real or pretend


We know it’s rigged but we give our all to the game

Our mind is a disaster but goals must remain

We’d do anything to get to that place

But it’s never enough in this impossible race


We pour our sweat and our tears and our love

We want to be someone we are proud of

Somehow both a game and a race

We give it our all, the rest must be left to fate

Ariana Bhargava

Ariana Bhargava is a high school student based in Massachusetts. She writes for Reclamation and Brown Girl Magazine and is passionate about storytelling, activism, and photography.

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