Diary of A (Former) Tall Poppy

Words by: Natasha Schapova
Art by: Stephanie Wong

Childhood. A blissful, almost utopian time in nearly everybody’s life, defined by happiness, purity and obliviousness. A time sprinkled with the belief that anything is possible, allowing us to swim in the wild and ornate potion of our imagination. We were assured that we could do anything that we set our minds to, and we embodied this mantra in every response to “what do you want to do when you grow up?”.

But there comes a time in every child’s life when they are cut out from the shelter of their cocoon and shoved into the real world, where they are forced to witness reality, no longer clouded by the woven silk of their childhood. For many, this may have occurred as a result of average or low grades at school, criticism from teachers, or bullying, teaching them that their dreams weren’t attainable. 

My irruption into reality was delayed, occurring only during my transition to adulthood. 

As a child, the possibility of failure never crossed my mind. “The Smart One” was emblazoned on my identity, proven through aced tests and a bombardment of praise during every parent-teacher interview. My success was predicted and mapped out for me by every teacher I stunned. I was placed into accelerated classes from primary school through to VCE and I wore it as a badge of honour. Every academic, sport, and music award insulated me from a subpar life and allowed me to climb higher up my pedestal, where I could look down on my peers and bask in my concealed belief that I was going to be better than them.

Being accepted into a science school in Year 10, followed by studying medicine in university, solidified my identity—I felt like I was reaching the potential that had been consistently carved out for me. These achievements provided constant ego boosts until there came a point when I was unsure whether I enjoyed studying medicine for the content or the status. 

Moving into an arts degree was the turning point for me. I pursued my passion despite the solemn reputation that often shadows arts degrees. One of the most unappreciated courses became my lifeline as I pursued a passion independent of validation. But even though this is the happiest I have ever been, at times, I still feel the need to prove myself in some egomaniacal way by mentioning my academic past in an attempt to restore my identity.

My journalism peers are some of the smartest and most interesting people that I have ever met, and yet I feed on the prestige of my past.

Now, comparison plagues me as I no longer measure my performance based on the name of my degree, but instead on the quality of my work. I have lost the fearless confidence I once nurtured, but I’m glad to report that studying journalism has moulded me into a more modest person. I’ve become the opposite of what I once was since my self-doubt has overtaken my former cockiness. But there’s a beauty in humility because it forces you to keep growing, acting as a constant motivator to become your best self.  

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I might not ever be a tall poppy again. Maybe I peaked in my late teens and from now on, I’ll just be an average one. Or maybe I’ve matured enough to realise that it doesn’t matter what sort of poppy you are, how tall or short, bright or dull, because every single one of them has its own unique character traits and talents, and success is a subjective term. 

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