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

The Occasional Slacker

If you’re a go-getter like me, any sort of procrastination feels like failure…

98% of the time, I’m the kind of person working way ahead of schedule. I’m completing tasks I don’t actually need to finish for a few weeks, but I just feel compelled to do them anyway. I’ve always been that type of person, always on the ball, always trying to make my time productive.

Except, that 2% of the time not accounted for, that’s when I feel beyond guilty. Defeated. Angry and frustrated with myself. Uninspired and unmotivated. There is that rare time when I come across a particular assignment that I just have no willpower to get done. Even when I never plan to procrastinate, which using that term could have many various definitions depending on the person, I have just a random paper or responsibility that I leave up as a window or tab on my computer and just ignore. And end up doing anything else BUT that.

It’s a habit that I luckily don’t fall into very often, but it does inevitably happen. Right now as I’m writing this, it’s a memo for media law and ethics. I have multiple tabs open in my browser for resources to cite and emails from an online database with more information, and yet there the document sits, little progress made, due in a few days. And here I am, writing a blog post instead!

I almost feel like I’m going against my own nature, like some unknown force is blocking my usual urgency to get things done. I’ve never been one to understand those who always write papers the day before they’re due or barely glancing at a textbook minutes before a test is handed out. I’ve had to work my tail off throughout my education, and while it can be exhausting at times, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far.

Until I get to that one little snag in the production that I just hone in and focus on, use it as ammunition to shame my abilities or lack thereof. But regardless of the scenario, we all come to points where we face a roadblock, a random halt in our creativity that can come up out of the blue. The world still expects us to keep truckin’ along as per usual, but we just…can’t, or don’t know how. It’s not that we don’t realize we have lots of people and resources that we could fall back on and ask questions to, we just mentally are at a place where our brain randomly decides that a basic task is too much.

This can apply to so much more than classwork. How about making yearly doctor and dentist appointments? How about applying and interviewing for jobs? Heck, sometimes making a meal that isn’t just cereal feels like a task only a MasterChef contestant can pull off. Our perception of how we view the difficulty of everyday occurrences that skew from reality is appalling.

Wouldn’t it be great to flip a switch and suddenly have the clarity and ambition to do what feels impossible? Or have it already done for us overnight, like secret elves just pulling our lives together? Alas, it’s not how the world works. We are the ones to ultimately hold ourselves accountable. Sure, you could easily neglect certain things that stress you out, but what are the repercussions of those decisions? We all know the answer to those questions as it pertains to our lives, but even then, it might not get you into gear.

What I typically do is still try to be productive, even if one task sits on my to-do list for longer than I’d like, but I still am crossing other things off. It’s a satisfying feeling, and sometimes that’s the only nudge you need to want to cross everything off. Also, your well-being should always, without a doubt, come first. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, that’s what is most important. You can’t do a single thing if you always leave your energy tank on empty.

Keep that one nagging task at the forefront of your mind, regardless of how simple it is to shove it aside. Think of what a relief it will be to get it done. Maybe that means going to a different location to do so, or doing some self-care activities first before you dive in, or taking frequent breaks to prevent getting hung up on tricky spots, or all of the above. It’s whatever you know works best for you.

If you don’t feel it right now, here’s a quick reminder that yes, you are strong and capable of overcoming the obstacles that plague you. You will trudge forward past this point and look back satisfied knowing that you made it. Life is all about the highs and lows, bouncing back and forth in a constant game of pinball. But if I can do it, then you and everyone else can, too.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie