So scary I will never see
As the little piece of me
That to all challenge did freeze and pale
Because I saw chance to fail
Once upon a time there was a young man--call him George, if only because I know no Georges. He was gifted. He knew he was smart, and would be perfectly aware of that fact regardless of if anyone told him. It wasn't just getting good grades--he's paid enough attention to the right things to notice that average children who work hard also get exceptional grades. But stuff comes easily for him. He picked up reading in a day. Prime factors make perfect sense to him, and fractions were easy.
George, one day, runs into a new subject, and the few students in the class who read ahead were quite confused, and asked him for help. George had shaken his head, because class was about to start and he didn't feel like being caught talking in class. Again.
The teacher starts into the topic at hand. It happens to be some quadratics, and he sees some students starting to get it, most of the others not. He turns back to the teacher and forgets about that.
George shifts uncomfortably.
He's looking at this, and there are too many things he doesn't understand. He couldn't even put his finger on what, so he couldn't ask, and it wasn't clicking.
George stayed in a few moments past the bell, trying to get it, trying to figure it out, but it just wouldn't stick. There was some number...and...and...
Some students who'd gotten in the habit of talking to each other for help started walking over, because none of them had understood. George got great grades, so they asked him.
The world slowed as they walked to him. Were he a different child, he might plan to say, 'Can't you figure it out on your own?' or, 'I don't know how to explain it,' or simply, 'I don't understand either.' But the problem was that George had set himself up around being The Smart Kid. So George knows exactly what they're coming over for--for that matter, he would know even if they were walking over for the dictionaries a few feet from his desk.
He knows what the adults think of him. He's stuck up; he doesn't get along with the other children; he's insufferable. And the kids think he's lording it over them, he knows the study group are the only ones who even talk to him anymore without insulting him, and no one, no one will help him.
George tends to think in words only when something really important comes up, but he's doing it now, because he is so entirely focused on the idea.
I can't fail.
It isn't a statement of physical impossibility. It isn't supposed to be railing against the universe, saying it's wrong.
I don't fail.
He's a teenager now. At some point this question flashes through a lot of teenage heads, though not always with the statement in front of it.
I can't fail. So who am I?
How Not to Talk to Your Kids