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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The Drop Off

I must say, not having the constant stress of some sort of assignment due and group project to coordinate and everything else pressing upon my shoulders. Especially as many people face or have just finished a week of final tests and papers, it feels like you’re breathing, actually taking in a lungful of air, for the first time in months.

But that doesn’t mean I automatically can flip a switch and feel content going into my winter break. I’m still in the mindset that I have something due and I’ve just forgotten about it. Maybe I should double-check…

On paper, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to go from finals week straight to a month-long break with virtually no cares in the world. There shouldn’t be any negatives at all about getting a well-deserved time of rest and relaxation, right?

For me, despite fully knowing I need this break after the crazy semester I just finished, that doesn’t make the swift change much easier. In my mind, going from constant schoolwork and responsibilities to essentially nothing is an abrupt change to handle. In fact, it can even pull me into my depressive moods to avoid feeling overwhelmed to a new, stress-free schedule.

As much as I probably complain about the immense stress I consciously put myself under, I do so because I need some sort of routine, something to work on to feel like I accomplish something and don’t waste away my moments. You might think I’m crazy for still consistently posting five days a week, but I honestly can’t picture myself doing any less. I have a restless mind, and when I know my depression is at the reins and I have zero energy and motivation, I immediately begin anxious mental scurrying, thoughts about being inadequate and lazy racing through my head.

So even in a time that is specifically dedicated to having free time, I feel like I’m not “spending my time correctly.” That I should be doing more or better somehow. That I’m missing out on opportunities and experiences others are taking advantage of, ensuring that I “fall behind.” The logic behind this thinking doesn’t stand, but that doesn’t mean it ever stops.

The end of the semester directly into winter break, as the title implies, feels like a drop off a cliff, going from one mental extreme to the next. It’s a weird sensation. You second-guess yourself. Should I enjoy this, and uh, how do I do that? I bet you can safely guess how I feel about the several months of summer vacation. (Spoiler alert: I’m sick of it by mid-June.)

Knowing myself and this inevitable cycle I face, I’ve found certain things to help me that can hopefully encourage others who have similar anxieties and exhaustion. As you can see by this post, I am still full-swing on my blog since now I have even more time to devote to writing and putting out some quality content for you folks. I also have my senior thesis project to work on that I’d actually like to completely finish over the break. Again, ambitious, if you can see the trend in my goals, but I’d really enjoy if I could get it out of the way when I don’t have other classwork to think about.

I also should be thinking ahead to summer and my plans for the waiting period between graduation and the real world, at least in the American Samoa. Again, since I know that summer is just a longer version of this empty-scheduled time, I want to make sure I’m preparing for then to avoid a drastic drop-off feeling.

My two biggest tips, then? Both involve planning ahead. First, for this present moment, ask yourself if you have any bigger projects or hobbies you’d like to dabble in that you usually don’t have the chance to do. If you do have any ongoing tasks at hand, whether that’s blogging, working, or anything else, look forward to that consistency and keep it up even if other aspects of your days are freer.

Also plan ahead for the future if possible. As a student, that usually involves looking for summer work and activities, but really, it’s always great to set goals and see what smaller hoops you’ll need to jump through to accomplish those. Having some sort of thing to strive for keeps you accountable and should give you the opportunity to check off an item on a list, by far one of the most satisfying feelings out there.

Some bonus advice would be to keep some sense of a routine in your days. Wake up at the same time every day, have set times for certain activities and meals, and make sure you stick to those. Depression and mental illness in general can feel like an endless fog, but having those little tasks to do again make you feel accomplished, like you did something with your day, even if that was just waking up early or taking a shower.

I’ve been talking up a lot of negatives about the holidays, but honestly, I LOVE the holidays. I’m pumped to be back with my family for a month and spend time just enjoying this time of year. What are you looking forward to this holiday season?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 1: Motivation – #GIG2017

Not only is it almost Christmas, but believing in your own abilities is key to finding motivation.

Happy first day of November, and with it, my second annual Ground in Gratitude challenge!
Each post this month leading up to Thanksgiving will focus on one thing, tangible or not, that I am grateful for in my life. This time, I’m taking it a step further by trying to be hip with a hashtag and incorporating it across social media platforms, expressing gratitude in all areas of my life. And with that hashtag, I challenge YOU (yes, you reading this) to also devote time to gratitude. If you share something online, I’d love if you’d use the hashtag so I can find it and even give you a shoutout.

With the background information out of the way, I want to dive head-first into this month discussing motivation. This already is fairly abstract, but I think having motivation is a key element to really making your life less about sitting back as everything goes by, and more about switching to the driver’s seat and feel empowered with the route you take.

I wanted to start with motivation because personally, I’ve felt a struggle recently to find any. My health has been sub-par, and that has led to a major depressive episode that has left me feeling drained by doing anything. Completing homework ahead of time has been hard. Going out to socialize and not just give excuses has been hard. Heck, even writing blog posts has been harder than it usually is, a pastime that I can usually pull out without much extra effort.

When I come across these times of barely dragging myself out of bed each morning, that doesn’t mean I’m completely helpless. Instead, I change my perception of what motivation and productivity look like. Now more than ever we see people, especially women, feeling more empowered to become “girl bosses” and glorify “the hustle,” and while that’s such a great thing to see, it overlooks the times when we can hardly take care of ourselves, let alone rocking out some major projects and plans.

Rather than seeing motivation just as the bridge to working hard and accomplishing a list of achievements, let’s celebrate motivation more as that little nudge ensuring we take care of ourselves each day. That voice of reason reminding us to reach out to that friend you haven’t talked to in awhile, to go get some groceries when you’re running low on food, to take a shower if you haven’t done so in a few days. Motivation is not some outside authority telling us what to do; it’s ourselves and our own desire to be the best version of ourselves each day, whatever that version may look like. And motivation in that sense might be even more empowering than the work-your-tail-off kind.

So those times when we think about our current state or look in the mirror, disappointed in what we see, realize that we wouldn’t even be standing without some form of motivation, whether that be for loved ones, goals, or the innate desire to stay alive. We can fall flat on our faces a million and one times, but that inner motivation never truly goes away. We can ignore and suppress it, but if we want to see any sort of step, no matter how big or small, forward, motivation is the tool moving our foot in the right direction.

Despite feeling a fog billowing in my vision and clouding my usual level of ambition, I am grateful for my motivation to keep waking up every morning, to still share my ideas on this blog because I know how much I love it and would miss doing so. I am grateful for still taking care of myself, for still doing my best in class. I’ve pictured so many different scenarios of what I could possibly be right now if I chose to completely wallow in my depression, but I’ve decided to grasp onto that spark of motivation to keep my eyes set toward the lighter times inevitably in my future.

If you’re drawn to a certain idea or activity, there’s a reason for that random little jolt of motivation compelling you. Don’t deny yourself that, but follow the path, even if it’s in unknown territory, and see where it takes you. At the end of the day, your biggest obstacle is yourself, your own fears and hesitations. But that means you’re also your best tool for overcoming those self-doubts, and that potential is really empowering.

On this first day of November, I hope you find the motivation within yourself to focus on at least one thing each day and express your gratitude for it. After doing this last year, I really want others to hop on board because the mindset you adopt from doing so can drive even greater motivation to not only better yourself, but to better the world around you.

What motivates you? It could be anything. I’d love to hear about the varied ways motivation seeps into our lives and helps direct our paths.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie