Who are you? What are you made of? These questions may cause people to stop and think about their lives but more often than not they are brushed off. Questions like these are difficult to think about because they bring one face to face with one’s own mistakes and failings. They destroy the perfectly cultivated facade of one’s life.
I finished my second year of university yesterday. I cannot believe that I am currently halfway through my undergraduate degree – it’s as if life is simultaneously going too fast and too slow. Half of me wants to stay in this moment for as long as possible and the other half wants to get on with whatever else life has in store for me. But of course, everything has to proceed in order, or at least it should continue in the manner that passes for order in the chaos of this life. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – this past year was a challenge. It’s difficult to explain how tough it has been on me to someone else because everyone keeps telling me that I’ll be fine, that everything will work out, and that of course my grades will be where I want them to be…optimism is tough to connect to reality at times.
I knew in my soul that something was different about second year the moment I received my first university mark in the ‘C’ range. That happened at the beginning of November but I won’t say things went down hill after that because they didn’t – they went up and down. For so many years I have cultivated an identity for myself based upon grades, honours, and awards. I would sometimes actively seek out the applications for things such as scholarships but there were times when I had no hand in my appointment for one thing or another. I do not intend to be dismissive of my blessings – goodness knows I have been extremely fortunate to have so many people in my corner who have helped me find opportunities that have changed the course of my life. However, school has defined my life much more than I ever realized until quite recently. At a very young age, regardless of what my parents or others told me, I began to tie my own personal perception of self-worth to my scholastic achievements. That created a cycle of perfectionism and procrastination that has followed me throughout the past fourteen years.
Fourteen years is a long time, especially considering that I am only nineteen, and after all of that time it took the possibility of facing something less than excellence to shake me awake. It took me so long to come to terms with the idea that I am more than this…I am more than my grades, my papers, even my ideas. I consistently advocate on both sides of the ‘I am an individual ergo I am special’ debate. I know that sometimes you need to feel alone – as if you are the only one who ever will live like you do – but there are other times when you need to realize that we are all humans – we are all the same. United by our common bonds of humanity and emotion we shall never be divided from each other. So, now I think that maybe there is something to being in the middle of the debate – yes, you may be unique because no one else has your exact experiences but no, you are not the only one going through something. Heartbreak, grief, triumph, joy, and so many other emotions help humans bond and remind us of who we are; we are not alone.
I know that my blog posts regularly seem centred around personal epiphanies but I want to emphasize that even after I’ve written about an experience I tend to relapse into bad habits. So yes, I’ve already talked about being good enough, about rising above self-doubt, and about a hundred other changes I’ve worked to implement in my life but sometimes I need a reminder. Yesterday was a reminder that I am not a sum total of my scholastic or academic achievements. No matter how my final grades turn out I will survive, I will not break, but that is not to say that I do not feel disappointment in myself. You can be disappointed in yourself and still be happy in general. Sometimes brooding is simply merited and that was what I did for several hours the other day. I plugged in my headphones and lost myself to a random reality television show while I ate dinner, I turned the radio volume up loud in the car and I let music wash over me, and when I reached my destination for the evening, Chapters, I felt better. I felt freer because I catered to my own emotional needs – I let myself work through the brooding, the disappointment, and the fear. That is not to say that I will never experience a repeat of those emotions ever again but for once I allowed myself to see the truth of what I needed. I needed to let go – to forget and to drown out my own thoughts and doubts. To quote a song, “Truthteller”, from the Honest Heart Collective‘s new album, “I’m not alright but I’m not gonna die,” meaning that, no, I’m not completely at peace with my situation now but I will be, eventually.
I know that I will be okay because I’ve been reminded of who I am and that is a person undefined by grades, books, clubs, or leadership positions. I am about more than what I have done – I am about my dreams, my wishes, my hopes, my goals, and my needs. I am about my eclectic music taste, my wardrobe that simply cannot find middle ground between casual and business wear, and my absolute love for all things Harry Potter related. My travels are part of who I am too. I am everything and in that way I am just like everyone else. I am more than a sum of my parts; I am me – just me, and with that I am content.
NB: *I didn’t come to the realization that I will be okay alone though. I have a few friends to thank for that, and one friend in particular. Friends are beautiful because not only are they the family you choose for yourself but they are also the people who probably know you better than you think. Thank you my friend, to all of my friends in fact, for putting up with my stress, my moods, and my intense devotion to school that sometimes limited our interactions to once or twice a month if we were lucky. Thank you for everything. To that one friend – 4:13 will see me through this too; thank you.
The musical inspiration for the title of this post can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKyY8zfjBMQ&spfreload=10