Alex Badger: Senior Testimonial


Angel Art Photography

I want to preface this by saying one thing: this is not a sad story. High school has been exceptionally good to me throughout my time here; I have made exceptional friends, met teachers who have changed my life forever, and had experiences that I can’t imagine having otherwise. However, it’s not entirely happy either: it’s a story of an impossible strive for perfection, and ultimately a story of falling short. This story is what I wish I heard when I was 14, sitting in that massive auditorium, and I hope that it can help you too.

I am a perfectionist. Just naturally off the way I grew up, I learned from a very young age that second place isn’t going to be good enough. This ultra competitive thought process has dominated my mindset for as long as I can remember, whether it be in school, sports, or clubs and extracurriculars, there was no accepting anything less than perfection. This approach is why I struggled with my freshman year.

I got cut from my first team ever, I got a B in Dr. Ryan’s Bio class (God forbid), and I generally struggled to find time for fun within my busy schedule. My freshman year was the first time I had ever had to work hard: a sentiment that many of my friends have echoed in our conversations as we reflect on our time in high school. This was the first time I had ever set goals for myself and failed, and this failure is something that I struggled with for a very long time and still struggle with to this day.

Especially in this town, whether they’re self-inflicted or from the outside, we all are under unbelievable amounts of pressure to be amazing at what we do; as a result, a lot of us, myself included, never learned how to fail. What my freshman year taught me is that fear of failure is more than okay, you should be afraid to fail, and you may have other problems if you aren’t; however, when we let our fear of failure paralyze us, and prevent us from doing what we want because we’re too scared to fail, it is time to reflect, and reestablish our values. Be scared to fail, but never be too scared to try.

One of the main places where my paralyzing fear of failure manifested itself was on the basketball court. Basketball began as an outlet for me, somewhere where I could work through all the anger and sadness on my mind. And I had a lot of stuff I needed to work through. The more I played the more competitive I got, and the more I told myself that I would never be good enough, so I kept pushing and pushing eventually making varsity and playing big minutes as a sophomore. That should’ve been the end. I was finally good enough. I had achieved my goals. But by now, many of you know how this story goes.

It wasn’t good enough for myself. It never was good enough. I kept pushing myself further and further. My body told me to quit. My knees deteriorated, and my back started seizing up at random times. But I never would let myself stop. And just as my body faded, so did my emotions. I lost myself, and basketball became part of the problems I always ran from as I refused to admit who I was under my ultra-competitive shell. I needed someone. And no one was there. I couldn’t show weakness to the upperclassmen, they wouldn’t understand because they had been amazing since the age of 5, and my travel coach, who had always been a father figure to me, was no longer around. It was just me. And I collapsed.

I screamed at Coach Willar, using an assortment of words that wouldn’t be allowed on late night television, much less the school newspaper. Ultimately, I ended up laying down on the floor of his office. Curled up and sobbing. This is what I had come to. My quest for perfection manifested itself with me in a fetal position begging for forgiveness through the tears.

Here’s the interesting thing about failure though: when you’re at your lowest, you leave room for people to help you up. I don’t know if they’ll ever read this, but it needs to be said: Matt and Mike Doherty saved me. I was ready to quit basketball, leave all my clubs, drop my honors classes. That is, until the Doherty’s showed me how to handle pressure. They had more pressure on them on a basketball court than anyone I’ve ever met: the prodigal sons that were destined to revive the basketball program. And they struggled. But they were okay with that, because they struggled and improved because of it. They knew how to fail, and whether they knew it or not they taught me how to fail. So if you’re reading this I really just have to say thank you.

My perfectionism and high expectations also found itself present within the clubs I joined. I didn’t join clubs because I was interested in them, I joined clubs for my college application and for the validation of being seen in those rooms. As I ascended to my senior year I ran for leadership positions in every club I could, ultimately getting so many of them that there was no way I could fulfill all my responsibilities. Only making this worse was my general lack of interest, a sentiment that led to me viewing my responsibilities as a nuisance, instead of enjoying the process. I did so much that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy any of the work I did, ultimately lamenting the clubs themselves and all the people in them. Now I’m left here and all I can really say is I’m sorry. I’m sorry to all the people in the clubs, I’m sorry to all the people who had to work with me, and I’m sorry for the fact that I never gave you my best self.

Ultimately, I worked so hard that I didn’t enjoy anything I was doing, and as I get ready to walk away from this school, I hate that my last impressions were not my best. I hate that I have to leave this part of my life knowing that I could’ve done more in all aspects of my world. But, this virus has taught me the important reality–that you don’t always get a second chance to leave a lasting impression, so by writing this I hope to take advantage of this opportunity.

On paper, my story is a story of success: A basketball captain, on the board of seven different clubs, straight A’s going to his dream school. But in reality, my story is a story of ultimate failure: an impossible fight with perfectionism, unavoidable battles with depression, and a burnout-induced fall from grace.

Take this as a cautionary tale, and don’t repeat some of the mistakes that I made. Do what you love and you will always be proud of what you’ve done. Always do your best, but learn from it when your best isn’t good enough (because there will always be times when your best isn’t good enough). These are the things I wish someone had told me, because leaving high school with this much regret is still eating at me.

And there have been amazing aspects: I have the absolute greatest friends and can’t ask for anyone better to have by my side at all times. In the end, I hope you can learn at least something from my story because that’s all I want.