I don’t remember when I started setting deadlines for myself. Not even just for my work. Deadlines for me. I divided my life into new years and new semesters. “By this date, I should have it figured it out. By this date I should have already proven something to myself.” Over and over and over–whenever a month or season ended, or whenever the timeline shifted, it was always a marker of how much of my life I had so far spent on, well, nothing much.
So imagine what graduation looks like to me right now: like some finish line, or a timeout. By that date, I should have already scored this many points AND figured out my next play. If I don’t, I’m…
What exactly? Doomed?
The truth is, I don’t know. But I feel the self-inflicted pressure crushing me anyway.
There’s no way to know what happens after the invisible red line. And maybe it’s the not-knowing that scares me more than what might actually happen.
Because, if you look at the history of things I’ve gotten myself into or been interested in, they’re all pretty huge deals. The org I found in its baby steps, a group of girls reaching out to girls, a company whose visions align with mine, a community that speaks out to me — these are things that take up room in my heart and mind lately. And if they’re any indication of what’s waiting for me out there, I ought to be pretty darn excited.
This post was supposed to be about one thing, and then it became another, and then it became a lot of things all at once. It’s probably because this is something that’s been bothering me for a while. And I’m letting it out now because I finally found a way to put it positively.
What I’m really doing here is convincing myself. Not to drop the fear, but to be brave in the face of it.
At the start of the year (both the calendar and the school year) I made a few goals for myself. I know by now that some of them can’t be accomplished anymore, but there were some things I accomplished despite not being brave enough to even write them down.
In the last two years, I:
Became Secretary-General of a student organization
… and then President
I ran for Secretary-General of Book Bench after a mere year of being a member, and then I ran for President the year after that. I won both times, and they remain my biggest accomplishments. I never saw myself running for leadership positions in big, scary, brilliant Ateneo. But I did, and I won. I like to believe that the people who accepted me into the position — shy, scared and inexperienced as I was — because they saw my love for the org was bigger than my fear of failing it.
Got into the dean’s list
I have friends who consistently achieve this, so it may not be a huge deal to some. It’s probably not even going to be a long-term achievement for me, but for now it’s huge. Not only because it’s my first time getting it, after years of trying, but also because this one time I didn’t pursue the grade, I only wanted to do well and get by. Look where that got me! :)
Tried out a contemporary dance class
I have a secret love for contemporary dance. Eep. There, I said it. It was sparked in late high school when I danced a sequence with some of my friends for an assembly, and a dancer I admired spoke to me after the show. He told me to seriously consider taking up contemporary because I was incredibly graceful. I never ever forgot that compliment, but I never got around to taking his advice. Until that one August when the class was offered in a studio near my apartment. I paid for a slot before I could change my mind.
Enrolled in yoga class (alone!)
When schedules wouldn’t allow me to take up contempo regularly, I took yoga instead. I had been promising myself for a while to get more exercise. When I stubbornly avoided it, fate took the matter into his own hands and brought a yoga class nearer to me. It’s the only exercise I can stand because it’s all done in a single spot. I really couldn’t resist.
Submitted a poem to the school’s publication
Yes, even if I didn’t get in. There is no bravery actually involved in getting published, only in submitting your writing for others to read and judge. I did that, and that was already kind of important to me.
Paid a long-overdue and much-needed visit to the guidance office
I don’t know if it’s just that I didn’t want to ask for help. I just always found a reason not to go, mostly because my time of disaster had already passed. But after a nightmarish mental breakdown around January, I forced myself to the office of counseling the next day. When I told the counselor I had always wanted to but this was my first time doing it, he congratulated me for it. And that’s when I realized I needed to recognize my own small accomplishments more.
Finished my undergraduate thesis (This is a huge deal, okay!!)
I had been terrified of college thesis ever since my aunt first told me about it as a kid. It sounded impossibly difficult. Where do all the ideas and content come from??? Luckily, I got past that and I passed that! And no matter what happens to me from here onward, I am already incredible grateful that it doesn’t involve thesis.
Whenever I’m too scared, or when I feel like I’m failing, I want to remember the things I have already done, just to remind myself that I can do it. That I can be brave. Because I was brave many times before, and they nearly always pay off.
So I want to look at those. I want to honor the times I went out of my skin and dared to do something.