Accepting Defeat

As I was looking through my papers that I’ve accumulated over the past few years and skimming this year’s planner, I stumbled upon a list of goals I made this August looking ahead at this semester I just finished.

Oh, man. I was glad about simply surviving the semester and walking out on both feet. Then I saw all I had set for myself to do, things that I knew would benefit me and make me a generally happier, more productive person. This included keeping up and getting immersed in the activities I chose to involve myself in, socializing on a regular basis, and making steady progress on my senior thesis project.

Simply put, I didn’t do those things. Any of those things. I was lucky if I responded to friends’ text messages within twenty-four hours. I haven’t touched the Word document titled “Senior Thesis” since September. I didn’t end up doing much outside of schoolwork, so trying to get campus organizations and activities off the ground were pretty impossible while I was scraping myself off the ground.

Looking at that list, those motivational statements that I envisioned myself doing and being in the past months, and then realizing I did not live up to my own testaments, I feel defeated. Should I have done more? Did I spend my time wisely enough? What if I had done such-and-such differently…

Obviously at this point, the fall semester is behind me, and I cannot change what happened. It is what it is. I can only reflect on what these weeks have taught me, appreciate where I am now, and look forward to what lies ahead.

Because when writing that list of well-intentioned goals, I did not write down the obstacles I was about to encounter. I did not plan for my physical and mental health to completely fight against me and receive little means of relief.  I did not expect my living situation to take such a draining toll on me with, again, little means of relief. I did not plan to handle the heavy workload I did, especially coming right from figuring out the Canadian grading system last spring.

So basically when writing those goals, even after two previous years of college in the books, I was going in blind. Just because I had finished what I had didn’t necessarily translate into an exact replica of those experiences where yes, all I had to do was set time aside for goals I wanted to accomplish to improve myself and I would have probably accomplished them.

Even though I completely forewent my intentions and ended up facing a difficult semester with the only goal of survival in my mind, I won’t allow myself to think I failed. To regret my decisions and experiences in favor of the unattainable “could have.” Yes, it could have happened how I envisioned it, but it didn’t.

As much as I’d love to plan out my every moment to ensure I’m making the most of my time, I’m not in control of that. I can be as “well-prepared” as I deem possible, but even then, it might not be enough. Life has other intentions for us, and just because they differ drastically from our minds doesn’t mean we’re invalid, that we failed.

Funnily enough, pondering upon this thought, I was also going through my accordion folder I hadn’t touched in months, just to declutter anything I didn’t need. Hidden in a back pocket, I found all the materials I’ve collected over times in therapy and counseling.

One particular paper caught my attention. It was in my really dark depression before my first year of college. At that point, I can safely say I was having suicidal thoughts, and the only counselor available at the time was a general one offering five free sessions. Yeah, not necessarily the most helpful, but on my own that summer, I wrote a list of goals for myself, in that short period, for that school year, and further in the future.

What an odd feeling looking back on that paper and thinking of that time, walking in my younger self’s shoes of unadulterated hopelessness and numbness, and seeing the goals I wanted to accomplish then. Some goals included taking a trip that July, getting involved at college, and later on landing an internship, studying abroad, and graduating from college.

I can proudly say to my younger self that I actually accomplished those goals. And the goals I had just set for myself this semester I probably never would have dreamed of ever touching. My past goals were simply looking for any reason to look ahead to the future. My recent goals were making the most of how far I’ve come, continuing to learn and grow from a much healthier place.

Life is crazy. How drastically perspectives can change, how we can develop as individuals. I have a lot to feel accomplished about. I have a lot to look forward to. I’ll inevitable face (MANY) rough patches, but I’m still moving forward despite it all.

So remember, folks, if your well-thought out plans, even ones made according to some research-proven method of goal-setting, might not work out. And that’s okay. In fact, maybe you’ve accomplished much more than you realize.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Day 14: Singlehood #GIG2017

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I can fall too easily into “what if’s” the second someone might show even an inkling of interest in me. But I’m not about to settle for anything less than I need.

I don’t know if that’s even a word, but we’re rolling with it anyways.

So if you couldn’t tell already by my lack of social media presence lately, I have been busy. Yes, busy with an end in sight, but an end that still feels too far away to grasp.

As such, that means I end up neglecting other aspects of my life to devote my time to what’s really at the forefront. It’s certainly not a balanced way to address stressors, but for now, it’s how I’m coping.

Since being in this stage of constant anxiety and tension, the many assignments I have looming over my shoulders, I began thinking about where my priorities, as of right now, really lie.

Right now, my priorities are obviously in my education, to finish strong and put my best work out there. And I’m prioritizing my relationships with family and friends, which is admittedly difficult because I tend to become exhausted by communication, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to keep in touch with a variety of people as I see fit. Even little things like a “thinking of you” message can make a huge difference.

And lastly on that has been myself. I’m getting in the basics I need, just not much beyond that. I know, not good, but I realize that most of my health woes are coming from the stress in my life, so I just look forward to finishing what I need to and treating myself to a nice break.

Not once here did I mention energy dedicated to a romantic relationship at this moment. If I had told myself a few years ago that was the case, I’d honestly be confused. I remember beating myself up so often for not really doing much on that end of life, mostly because I had no clue how to seek it out and nobody was really seeking it from me. I thought I was inadequate, “forever alone,” a failure when trying to meet some internal expectations to match others’ endeavors.

So we come to now. And right now, I’m proud to say I am single. I don’t want to be single forever, but I am content working on these big goals in my path and fostering my relationships with friends and family. That’s honestly all I can handle, and I’m at a point where that’s all I need.

I’ve been on both sides of the equation, where I was shocked to find out my feelings weren’t reciprocated, and also being the one in control to say things aren’t clicking. The latter example was downright frightening for someone who hates confrontation, but I’m so proud of myself for being able to stick up for my best interests to know what I need and deserve in a partner.

I’m grateful that I do set high standards for the people in my life so I don’t waste precious time and energy on those who don’t invigorate me. I’m grateful for my acceptance of what I need right now, and that is to be alone and get in that hustle. I’m grateful in the people who are in my life supporting and loving me exactly how I need to be. And I’m grateful for my slow but steady self-discovery realizing my worth as an individual and in a relationship.

And whatever may come, I’m grateful for the people that enter and leave my life as it’s meant to be. Some people will inevitably stick around for the long haul, but others might be a fleeting time for whatever reason. Especially if that reason is seeing someone’s true colors, colors that don’t fit in my design scheme.

If a person were to stumble into my life and fit the partner bill, than I’ll gratefully accept and relish it. Maybe it’s next week, next year, or not for a long time. Who knows? Cliche as it sounds, I have had enough sparks of excitement and disappointment to know I don’t want to waste too much time actively seeking out others just for the sake of a relationship. I believe that yes, we have certain partners destined for us…soul mates, if you will, and those can be platonic or romantic. Both are amazing and a blessing.

There’s perks to being in a relationship, certainly, but I’m grateful for my independence and freedom right now, a time when I can be somewhat selfish with my time and priorities to pursue what my soul desires.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still keep a mental checklist of what I want and need from a partner, and I’m not settling for anything less.

If you want me in your life, I’m not playing games and lollygagging for the “dating” experience. I’m in it for long term. If you want some extra quirk and anxiety, it would be an easy feat. I might not be good at making decisions, but I have decided that I am complete as I am. I am both halves of the equation. I just need someone to keep up with my fast pace and complement who I already am to encourage me to keep moving forward, learning and growing.

But anyways, I’m stressed. That’s too much to think about when I have plenty of other papers to write and presentations to assemble. But when I get a chance to breathe, you know where I stand.

Do you have a “future spouse” list of what you’re looking for in someone? Because seriously, don’t feel embarassed to know what you want. You deserve it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Fear Setting

Verbal to Visual has provided a helpful image to illustrate this TED Talk.

 

Seems like a backwards concept, right? Why would we want to amplify our anxieties when we could focus on our goals, our successes?

Tim Ferriss speaks of the value of better understanding our lowpoints in his TED Talk. As he lives with bipolar depression and has found himself many times on the edge of darkness and suicide, his insight is worth a listen.

So what do I mean by “fear setting”? Well, we all know about goal-setting, a practice even I’ve probably talked your ear off about. It’s most effective to physically write out what you hope to achieve for yourself so you can keep those thoughts at the forefront. You can then better align your daily actions with those goals and make them that much more tangible.

Yes, you’ve heard that one a few or plenty of times from me. But what about fear setting? Mental illness or not, we’ve had points of hesitation, of self-doubt. If an opportunity arises, we fear its implications and might automatically push it aside. This could be anything from accepting a new job, going out to a social event, or even just taking a break for yourself when you feel overwhelmed with work.

The first step is to make three columns. The first list, write out every fear you have associated with a particular situation. For example, if that’s going on a vacation to get away from a hectic schedule, you might fear the unknown of what could go wrong on the trip, or you fear getting so far behind in your work that you risk failure.

Now you list what you could do to prevent these fears from happening. In this case, you could research ahead of time your travel plans and prepare accordingly, and you could let others know of your plans and work ahead to get major assignments out of the way before you go.

Inevitably, there are some things you can’t control. Life is unpredictable, and no matter how much you plan and prepare, things can fall through. The third column then is listing how to repair the damages if your fears were to happen. So maybe your luggage is lost or a flight canceled. You can always readjust your schedule and make do with what you have. If something arises with your work or schooling, talk with those involved and work something out. Either way, no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world. Admittedly, that’s easier said than believed.

But here’s another thought to think and write about. What would happen six months, a year, even three years down the road if you did not choose to partake in these opportunities? If you let your fears get the best of you, what effects will that have? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be working your tail off until you implode. You’ll fall into unhealthy, harmful behaviors, relying upon stimulants to get you through the day. You’ll regret not giving yourself some relief. You might find that you had less work to do than you realized, and then fall into depression for overthinking it all. Which, trust me, I’ve been through this pattern too many times to count.

Self-awareness and reflection is so powerful. Being able to look objectively at even a snapshot of our racing thoughts really can change your perspective. When we allow those thoughts to just continue buzzing through without questioning them, they can truly run our lives. They can isolate us into what we see as safe, comfortable status quos that, in reality, hold us back from truly living.

A single list probably won’t change your life. If you have specific fears, you probably will continue facing those even after listing and rationalizing them. But at least you’re becoming an active voice above your anxiety. You’re not entirely allowing it control. You’re making progress in the right direction. Hopefully you’ll realize your mental strength is far greater than you ever imagined.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie