Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you know in your heart of hearts, doubt still finds a way to creep into your castle of strength and creativity. You are always your harshest critic. I know this all too well. Tonight had me questioning my ability to succeed in the English portion of my double major and though this is not the first time I’ve experienced these doubts I came to a realization this evening that helped me to put everything in perspective.
Recently, I’ve taken to telling people that I chose English as part of my double major not because I excel in the subject but because I truly love it. In other words, I’m coming to terms with life and acknowledging the reasons behind my decisions; I’m critiquing myself. Or if I was alive in the 6th century Boethius, a philosopher from that period may have told me that I was fulfilling my Fate. IN his text The Consolation of Philosophy he explains how fate is a guiding force in our lives. There is no chance or fortune, only fate. This proclamation reassures me. Acknowledging that our decisions still allow for free will yet also factor into a larger plan, in this case God’s providential plan, provides me peace. Life is both scripted and unscripted for us. The past is unchangeable and the future intangible. The present is an illusive creature that exists in a state of liminality caught between our prospective lives and our histories.
So, in accordance with what I hope is my fate I chose, last summer, to pursue a double major (Humanities and English) and a double minor (History and Religion). However, as the semester progressed I reassessed my standing and eventually came to the decision to drop my History minor to avoid trying to overload on summer courses in order to graduate on time. I know that technically there is no requirement to complete a degree in four years, it’s common enough for those who go abroad to take an extra semester or year, but I am aiming for four years culminating in a graduation. I want to complete my undergraduate education within a timely manner because if my scholastic plans pan out I’m looking at around seven or eight more years of school at least. My
dream goal is to obtain a doctorate.
That may sound like a typical answer to the question, “What do you want to do after you graduate?” but to be honest I don’t really care what people think of my decision. This is my life. I have free will (thank you for reminding me of that Boethius) and I will wield that knowledge like the weapon it is.
Sometimes I need to remind myself that I have the potential to do the things that I want to do, sometimes I doubt myself. Going back to English, I love it but my grades are not always adequate in my mind. I can spend hours obsessing over how I could have changed my thesis to make my point more succinct or how writing on a different topic could have been easier but there’s no point to performing a post-mortem is there? Regardless, I have spent hours agonizing, as my father would say, over grades, papers, and projects. What can I say? I’m a perfectionist. But that’s no excuse.
Really, it’s not an excuse. Half of life is just about showing up and if you’re too afraid to show up because something isn’t perfect you’re missing out on a great deal of life’s little moments.
Earlier this evening I got a paper back. It was a piece that I loved working on from start to finish. I loved writing it, I loved editing it, I even enjoyed submitting it but then it came back with a B+ marked at the top. My heart dropped. It shouldn’t have but in that moment all of the joy that I had reaped while producing the paper vanished. Again I say it shouldn’t have because as I said above, the past is unchangeable. When I handed in that piece I was happy and proud – that can never change and I cannot take that away from my past self. As for my present self, I approached the professor who was more than willing to elaborate on what I could improve upon and even reminded me before I left that I had received a good grade. In truth it is a decent grade, some may not share that view however it’s not their paper is it?
This is why I chose English, it challenges me. It pushes me beyond my creative and academic limits. Throughout my two years at university I have received A+’s and A-‘s, sometimes B’s pop up, and rarely, I am visited by a C. Once I even saw a C- but that’s okay. I still have my scholarships. I am still at university.
I am still here. Yes, I doubt myself and my capabilities sometimes. Days can go by when I never give my insecurities a second look while other times I spend every waking minute playing host to my worst fears.
However, I am content with my B+. But if Boethius was correct, and I think that he was, this moment was, still is, part of a larger plan. This is a learning experience. There is intent here and that is what is helping me to push my doubts aside and leaving me with a sense of contentment.
It’s natural to doubt. Humanity is fallible; it would be odd to be confident all of the time. That B+ is a reminder to me that perfection is unattainable. That grade will prompt me to take what I’ve learned and apply it in the future to avoid the same mistakes. And right now it stands as a badge of honour, a symbol of my humanity, and my perfect imperfection.