So, now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I’m going to use this summer to heal, to teach myself new and more helpful ways of thinking. I’m confronting my perfectionism demons, which I think warrants its own post, but here’s some thoughts to combat my academic perfectionism.
Firstly, I’m thinking “my best” instead of “the best”. My mom used to tell me in middle and high school “Just do your best and don’t fail the class.” Maybe she has a good point.
Maybe it’s time that I stopped trying to be “the smartest” and “the best” and “the top of her class” and learn to evaluate my intelligence by a different standard. I need to remember that there can be only one smartest, one best, one top of the class and that there are plenty of smart people out there competing for that so it’s not likely that I will be any of those things.
But maybe I don’t have to be any of those things. Maybe it’s okay to just be smart and not the smartest, good and not the best, and maybe it’s okay to just graduate instead of having to be the valedictorian. After all, most people aren’t the smartest or the best but they’re still getting along just fine.
And all those things–“best”, “smartest”– are relative to how well other people performing. Maybe those things aren’t even a good objective measure of what I’m capable of. It’s much more objective to think “This is what I’m good at, that is what I’m not good at. Someone being better than me at what I’m good at doesn’t mean I stop being good at it. Someone being worse at what I’m bad at doesn’t make me cease to be bad at it.”
I’m trying this new thing where instead of expecting straight As, I aim for a B average. After all, that’s all I need to get into the program that prepares me for grad school. And also, I’m trying to focus more on having intelligent behaviour than intelligent grades and am considering that there are other types of intelligence that aren’t measured in school.
I also realized that when it comes to your grades, you have to consider context. Some classes really are more difficult than others. I already mentioned that I failed one class this semester, but I got a B in the other one. I was disappointed with that B because I was so sure I’d get an A when I was studying twenty hours a week for this class.
Then I talked to an academic advisor. Turns out this class is practically impossible. Apparently it’s really difficult to begin with (it’s biopsychology, which requires a lot of memorization in Latin), but it becomes even harder when you take it fully online like I did, and even harder when you take it with the professor I took it with. Some of my classmates are retaking it this summer because they failed it. But I, mentally disordered, disabled me, got a B. (Yes, I’m aware this contradicts the attitude of “comparison is not objective”, but it feels awesome to do good at something other people are doing poorly in.)
And obviously, doing the math (see https://intersectionofeverything.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/the-saga-of-how-im-taking-the-summer-off-part-three/ ) for how much time I’d need to spend on school and realizing that spending that much time on it isn’t a luxury I have really put things into perspective.
I’m focusing on the fact that I am the only me there is, the only me there ever was, and the only me there ever will be. I may not be the best, but nobody’s mind works quite the way mine does. I can show people things they’ve never seen before. I have something that I alone can offer. I am reveling in my uniqueness.
I’m also focusing on all the little things I can do. Like, my nurse sister commented that she could NEVER put contacts in her eyes, it’d creep her out too much (luckily for her, she’s always had perfect eyesight). She might have a better education than me and be further along in her career, but I can put contact lenses in my eyes every day in a matter of seconds. It’s so small and so mundane, but it’s something I can do.
And nothing gives you appreciation for little things like taking Cognitive Psych. Did you know there’s something called prosopagnosia where people are unable to recognize faces even though they can see quite well? And that there is actually a thing called motion blindness? I can recognize the faces of all my loved ones and every person I have to work with, which enables me to do basic things at work, like make sure the parent of this kid gets that handout. And I can see motion, which means I can drive safely, among other things.
I have a new appreciation for all the complex things my body does just to keep me alive. The human body is fascinating and beautiful in all the things it can do. This is why I love science. It helps me see how blessed I am.
I’m also switching my focus from “I have to get my degree” to “I’m here to learn and I love learning”. This is part of why I’m taking longer to do my degree: because I want to really learn the material, not just memorize it for an exam and forget it once the class is over. I told my genius brother-in-law this and he thought it was a great idea.
And thinking like this improves my grades by making school fun. In a lot of ways, school is a hobby of mine. (“Expensive hobby,” my friends remark.)
And I’ve realized that we’re often taught that taking a break is being a quitter. Well, it’s not. Taking a break is nothing more than making sure you have the resources you need to tackle whatever comes your way. (Analogy: if your car is on empty, would you keep driving it until your car dies on the side of the highway or go to the nearest gas station to fill up? I think we know what the logical answer is to that one.)
And that sometimes, it’s okay to quit. If what you’re doing is making you unhappy and unhealthy, maybe it’s high time to step back from that and try something else. Maybe you’ll find a new passion in life. Or maybe you won’t, but you’ll just be happy.
So, I’m taking this summer to put myself back together again so that I’ll be refreshed and strong for school in the fall. And I’ve made the decision that I’ll probably take summers off from now on, so I have that time to rest and work on all these little fun projects I have lined up.
I’ve made this “I Can” list, for all the things I’ll have time for now that I’m not in university:
I can watch movies, and all the special features too.
I can read the books piled up in our bookcase.
I can work on my blog.
I can practice my piano.
I can write music and maybe even get something recorded.
I can take on some extra hours at work.
I can save up money for school. Or a new car. Or a real piano.
I can pay down my student loan debt.
I can cuddle my cat.
I can find a nicer place to live.
I can keep my room tidy.
I can do my laundry (which has become a luxury).
I can grocery shop and try cooking new recipes.
I can plan little trips with my friends.
I can be my best friend’s maid of honour.
I can take piano lessons, maybe even voice lessons.
I can babysit my nieces and nephews.
I can visit friends and family.
I can lay around, just daydreaming or listening to music, and squander my time in whatever way takes my fancy.
I can see the psychologist and get some answers, maybe get my anxiety and depression under control.
I can see the massage therapist (Yay!).
I can learn how to sew up the tears in some of my clothes.
I can write a book.
I can read old university textbooks at my leisure until I can wax poetic about their contents.
I can go to my kickboxing and martial arts classes regularly.
I can sleep at night.
I can go to church again.
I can spend all day on Pinterest if I want.
But most of all, I can DO WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT ON WEEKENDS BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE TO STUDY!!!
I love my “I Can” list. It makes me feel productive and like I have something to get excited about, instead of my life looking like work, work, and more work.
And these past few weekends, I did some of those things. I watched four movies in a row, without any feeling of guilt or “I should be studying”.
I finished reading the Two Towers and started on the Return of the King. I also finished reading a book on finances.
I took my mom out shopping for some work clothes.
I did my laundry. I cleaned up my room and the bathroom and scrubbed down the whole apartment.
I practiced my martial arts and did kickboxing and can already feel myself becoming strong again.
I videotaped my cat snoring and videoed her making these funny sounds she makes when she sees birds. I gave her lots of cuddles; she’s been lonely with me working and in school and with Mom working full-time too.
I went for a walk on a sunny day, and went swimming and played on the waterslide like I’ve been wanting to for ages.
I went on Pinterest, again without guilt. I read some blogs and worked on my own blog.
I had dinner with family and played card games. I babysat my youngest nephew, and later my two nieces and my other nephew.
I just sat around, listening to music I hadn’t listened to in years.
I spent a whole afternoon walking around my old stomping grounds with a friend of mine.
I went to church, got in touch with some old friends, made some new friends, and taught my mom some philosophy.
I helped my best friend pick out her wedding dress, and came along to do the registry, and goofed off making the wedding invitations.
I tinkered on my piano, sang some songs I wrote, and even got ideas for new songs. Which is incredible because I haven’t been able to write music for a very long time. I worried that maybe I’d lost that.
For the first time in a very long time, I have rested. And I’m amazed at how fast I’m recovering myself. And I’m excited to see what I’m going to do over the summer. Right now, I’m just going to focus on the little accomplishments, because it’s often the little things that we build our lives off of, the individual molecules that form the foundation.
And lastly, I just want to give a little shout-out to my family and friends. They’ve all been really supportive of me taking time off school. Even my sister, who I figured would be the most critical of it thanks to that “What do you mean you failed Info Tech? It’s the easiest class you could possibly take!” comment she made back when I was in middle school, has been really encouraging and said, “Sometimes, you just need a hard reset.”
So, here I am. Reset.