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they scattered rainbow chairs around haphazardly bathed in sunlight, filled with little beings as we learnt about comradery until they hammered in a poster above the blackboard equating our good nature to the amount of stickers we could collect faster than any of our friends – they made us play in teams of threes and fours in the school’s playground; we thought a chance to learn of strength in numbers, until we found out that all that counts is that one momentous day where we all race our brothers & dream of crushing our peers for a little public validation, a few measly cheers – awoken every day at dawn for eleven years steadily to be told how lucky we are to study so we too can be the best versions of ourselves but somehow instead we only call it a success if it includes defeating all the rest and we measure our progress relative to everyone else – somehow we seem to spend more time internalizing shame over failing tests and ‘bad’ grades, hiding out in bathroom stalls, and lying to save face confusing the isolation with reality, hiding behind masks in solidarity , afraid to show our inability to keep up with the rat-race, only to finally emerge with an oh-so-holy-degree in a world now full of people waiting for you to admit defeat so they too may have a chance at glory – after spending years as the cog in the machine do you even remember when you learnt to compete?

who are we trying to beat?

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