Whether it being a fear of falling apart, falling short of expectations, or simply falling behind, it is always there. Lurking underneath the surface. Though there are emotional components and bouts of self doubt and confusion, what I am talking about is university.
We all want to do well in the eyes of our family/friends, teachers, and our selves even. But it’s never enough is it? To just do well. Deep down we know what we want, to be the best or at least be amongst the best. So when you do well (maybe even better) you feel like you’re flying, you hear those around you talk about poor grades (though you know it was probably because they didn’t study and that they are very smart people, who only need to work hard to do well) and you play off your mark. Half prideful, half nonchalant. You don’t want your own spot light, but you want to stand out. You want to be recognized for your hard work, the sleepless nights, the endless amounts of coffee, your lack of social interaction. And all for a mark. An amazing mark, but a mark, a grade, a shiny gold spot on your record saying: “look what I can do, I am a valuable member of the university and society, hire me and give me money so I can have a life of my own and be one of you”. Someone who follows a path, sticks to it and… I don’t really know yet what comes after, I’m still on the path myself.
Anyway, this keeps happening. Gold star, after gold star, great mark after amazing mark, rewards, certificates, newspaper articles, money. Constant validation, praise, and placards to be put up. And then you start to feel it. A dullness, a grey that settles in. You still want the rewards, but the work feels like its piling up. The questions start. “How am I going to pull this off?”, “How can I keep doing this to myself?”, “Do I really deserve to take a break?”, “What will my parents say if I fail?”, and more importantly, “What happens if I fail?”. And that’s when the spiraling starts. Down and down I go, where I stop nobody knows. Because if I don’t do well in my undergrad, how am I going to get into a good school to do my Masters? What about my PhD? Will I even be able to make it to then? Will I burn out, drop out and end become some unexpected burden/freeloader my parents never saw coming. Leaving people asking: “What happened? ____ had so much potential”
These fears can be consuming trust me on that. A mixture of highs and lows. Hyper activity at 3:00am mixed with an inactivity at 4:00pm during the day. But what can you do, but power through it all. The discomfort, the anxiety, the agitation, the irritableness, the relief, the love, the joy, and the utter confusion of it all. This is just my experience with failure, or more or less a fear of it. And it’s silly, but sometimes what gets me through it all is just a little voice in my head singing, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”. Its not for everyone, but it is for me.
So take breaks (try scheduling them), it’s okay to fall behind on your readings (trust me I have), because you will make it, to wherever your path may lead you. Wherever you may want to go. Take care of yourselves, trust yourselves. It is okay, and just keep swimming.
Well wishes, LR