A little birdie came and told me that it wondered if something was different in my life since I had stopped writing. And come to think of it, maybe something is different… maybe something bigger than “something” is different. Maybe I am different. But I’m back.
And yes, of course I am different, and I see my transformation as almost comical… not because I’m laughable (although yesterday I actually was because I completely wiped out by tripping over myself on the way to class and bloodying up my knee), but because of my prior expectations for myself and my life, and how differently my reality turned out.
I reflect on my predictions that I assigned to myself during my latter high school months, and I feel a sense of relief. For countless days, I spent second after second exerting ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself, thinking that if I did, things would be right where I wanted them… but I also thought that if I removed the pressure, things would fall out of place.
When I entered a new place (aka college), I thought I would bring every piece of my old self with me. I remember telling myself during my senior year of high school that I had finally figured myself out. I thought I knew who I was and I thought I knew what path I wanted to take.
Now, I’m here, where I truly believe I’m meant to be, but I’m not who I was six months ago. At this point, God is teaching me lesson after lesson, some of which are beyond stressful, others that require waaaay more patience than I knew I had, and others that are still in the making. And so it all unfolds.
One thing I’ve learned about self-growth is how terrible it feels to acknowledge our weaknesses, but how amazing it feels to grow through them. I once participated in a high school leadership retreat with staff that refused to call anything a “weakness,” but instead used the term “growing edge.” Everything was seen as a positive trait or an opportunity for improvement towards a positive trait.
Well, I’ve come to realize how much I need to change my perspective. I had myself convinced that I was born an optimist, but soon realized that even while having a cheery smile, and even while living a content life, I still somehow managed to figure out how to place pressure on myself for almost nothing at all. I’ve trained myself to become so focused on chasing a perfect life, whether that’s a perfect grade, a perfect friendship, or a perfect me, I’ve placed an infinite amount of pressure on myself for an entity that cannot be altered or removed. I thought I shattered perfectionism when I accepted the fact that getting a B on a paper was “good enough.” I also thought if I tried to fix things with this constant pressure, then I would be happy, and my life would somehow fall into place.
I’ve thought this entire time that I was chasing the perfect life, the happy life, the satisfaction that doesn’t simply flutter away after a few hours of laughter and folly. It turns out I’ve only been chasing the worst-case scenarios. And they definitely don’t bring me any sort of contentment.
I’ve had myself fooled.
I’ve learned that there is a difference between smiling with your mouth and smiling with your words. It’s possible to be exuberant with confidence and joy, yet be reeling with toxic perfectionism underneath the facade. My least favorite part about placing this pressure on myself isn’t even my inability to bend my life around the bar of my unreachable expectation; it’s how much negative energy I inadvertently dish out towards the people I’m around, because people can feel the pressure that you place upon yourself, even if you aren’t always talking about it.
I think I’ve forgotten one crucial point here. Life isn’t perfect, nor is it meant to be. Life is incredibly beautiful, in all of its happy moments, sorrowful times, arguments, and emotional breakdowns.
Life never ceases to be beautiful, but sometimes, we cease to see it that way.