Chapter 52:

Valerie Boateng: Painful Past Part 3

New Leaf!

“Sorry Ren, let me start from the beginning…”

We were now sitting on the bottom row of the bleachers.

Valerie handed me her transcript. An 87%, an 83%, a 90%, and an 84%… So, her average is 86%.

“So your average is 86%.”

“Yeah… I know it sounds kinda haughty and annoying saying this, but I’m not really happy about this mark.”

“Why not?”

“Don’t get me wrong, this mark is definitely considered high, but… See, it’s lower than the marks I achieved in the previous years.”

That is true. Last year, she got an average mark above 90% in both semesters.

“But these are only midterm marks.”

“Yeah, I know! But, midterm marks give a good estimate of the student’s academic standing. Also, since marks are based on averages, it will be harder to raise it…”

I see… So her problem is that she cannot keep up with the mental stress that accompanies academics; also, the increase in difficulty as one age contributes to it. So that means that what she told Connie at the library one month ago was a lie… At that time, I had a suspicion about her answer.

“I think you are thinking about it wrong…”


I started to stroke my chin.

“Well, do not try to be so influenced by your marks. Sure, marks give great insight into one’s academic knowledge, skill, and growth, but that is not what matters. The main thing that teachers and schools are concerned with is learning.”

As Valerie wiped her face again, she turned to face me.

“A teacher’s job is not to give marks to students, it is to teach them. So, students should not be too concerned about a number, but rather, the number of things they learn. And besides, many things make up a student’s mark, and those small things can be easily missed.”

I put my hand off of my chin.

“So Valerie, do not agonize over your mark; one’s mark can be inaccurate about their skill.”

“Yeah, but…”

Valerie stood up angrily — no, she was more stressed.

“I know that marks can be misrepresentative of one’s skill and that I shouldn't fret over them, but I am. I think it’s because they’re the only thing that post-secondary institutes have to judge us! What now, Ren!?”

I see… So for her, marks are important. So telling her that they are not will not work. Then… A possible solution is to get rid of the worry revolving around marks altogether. That is hard to do. Unless…

“Valerie, what do you plan to do in the future?”

“What do I plan to do?”

“Correct. Judging by the electives you are taking, I assume you are going into an engineering field. And since you are also taking biology, I assume that you are planning on entering the biological engineering or medical field.”


As Valerie said that, she seemed to cast her eyes downwards. She seemed sad about something… A hopeless look. A look of desperation… It looks like she wants to change something, but she knows that it will not ever change… A look I am familiar with…

“You guessed it! I want to work in the medical field — become a doctor! I’m taking a lot of science-y and math courses to keep my options open!”

She spoke like she was excited about it… But it seemed odd. Like it was… forced.

“Are you sure?”


“I see… That is the source of your problems. All of those courses are tough. On top of that, your schedule is filled with academically demanding courses.”

“I guess…”

“That would be fine for someone who set their own goal of entering a scientifically heavy field, however…”

I moved my eyes from staring at the ground to looking directly at Valerie. I am sure she could sense the seriousness and firmness that I was radiating.

“That is not your goal…”


Valerie angrily walked up to me and grabbed my shirt and forcibly pulled it up to her. She was angry, but more so stressed.

“The hell are you talking about!? Of course, I chose this path for myself! Or are you just making fun of me? Are you saying that I’m not strong enough to handle this!?”

“This makes no sense…”


I spoke bluntly.

“Just a couple of moments ago, you were depressed, but now you are furious. And your current angry outburst is unusual because I observed that you are usually rational, easygoing, and calm. So…”

Valerie loosened her grip on me.

“You are using this fabricated anger to protect your quote-and-quote decision. I think you would usually just laugh and assure me if I mentioned the difficulty, so…”

Valerie completely let go and stumbled back.

“You are protecting this decision more strongly because this is not your decision…”

Valerie spent a few minutes staring at me, processing what I just said.


It makes sense, right? Her future plans were completely decided by someone else. And since they were, she has to protect it more strongly than if it were her own decision. And she has faith in this plan because she trusts the person who forced it upon her…

Valerie cast her eyes downwards again.

“What the hell, Ren? You just read me like a book… It’s kinda scary actually.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“But… But, I guess you win Ren…”

She sat beside me again and her fury was short-lived.

“I don’t want this… Ren, I don’t like this plan for the future that was given to me!”

She lowered her head in between her legs.

“I just don’t like it… Right now, I’m undergoing tons of stress! Everything I have to do needs to be right! No matter how small the thing is, I always have to second-guess it. I always have to double, triple, and quadruple check my calculations. I have to diligently look over what I wrote even with the time fleeting. You notice that my workplace is usually messy, right? That’s not a choice — I don’t have the time to do so when other things are taking my attention!”

She suddenly grabbed my shirt again. This time, along with stress and instead of anger, she was feeling fear.

“I’m paranoid. I… I don’t know what to do, Ren… Scared… I’m seriously scared… H-Help me…”

She was crying again…

She is seriously scared right now… She is seriously sad right now… She is seriously unsure right now… I should help her, right? She did request it, so I will do so…


She looked up at me.


“I will help you.


I nodded.


Valerie let go of my shirt and wrapped her arms around me. She dug her face into my chest.”

“Thank you so much, Ren!.. Thank you!..”

...My shoulder hurts.