"Insufferable." That's how Dr. Xiao imagines her high school peers saw her. Chasing the image of the ideal student internalized by her childhood in China, she became rigid in her pursuits. Her skill at piano and her aptitude in math became deeply entwined with her identity. She developed a framework for success, and as frameworks sometimes do, it evolved into a barrier.
At her core, Dr. Xiao is both an artist and a scientist. It was just a matter of time before her built identity fractured to make room for who she actually wanted to be. For a while, she swung from one extreme to the other, treating creativity and scientific inquiry as independent forces but finding it difficult to step away from either. There was an ongoing battle between social pressures to be the traditional "best" - following the rules - and taking a chance on improvising a new path. Her story exemplifies the impact that treating subjects as too distinct or grades as too much of a proxy for success can have on students.