I have a few hard and fast rules. One is never wear socks with cropped pants. Another is that when people say, “How are you?” that unless I am in need of immediate medical, fire or police assistance, the answer is always a version of, “I’m fine.” Of course there are exceptions, but 97% of the time people are asking to be polite and no one wants to get cornered talking to that person who, when they are asked how they are doing, actually tells you. I will politely listen, but this is playing in my head the whole time (I crash into something at the end?). I also try to remember (but usually fail) that everyone is a teacher and there are lessons everywhere.
Because of the one-woman pity party I’ve been throwing the last couple of weeks it didn’t even occur to me at the time that when one of my classmates blurted out- in great detail- how they are doing that it was a larger lesson I needed to hear.
What happened was I was sitting in class, halfway through eating my Kind Bar when, let’s call her Marie, called me over with a question about our assignment. I don’t really know Marie and have only had maybe one conversation with her the entire semester. She’s a nice woman with a smile that brightens her face and while she’s clearly been overwhelmed with this class, she’s made huge strides this semester. Anyway, I answered her question about the assignment and she said, “Hey, is that a Kind Bar?” I said it was and I eat an obscene amount of them (I buy at least 12 each week and they are usually gone by Sunday afternoon). This lead into a conversation about how she just started to workout and it’s really hard to keep going and eating right. Marie went on to tell me that it is sort of like school, she’s embarrassed and ashamed that she’s not at the same level as everyone else and it takes forever to see any sort of payoff. The struggle makes her question if any of this is worth it. Like I said, we don’t really know each other, but I guess she just needed to get it off her chest.
I said, “Believe me, I know it’s really hard, but just keep at it. Look how far you’ve come this semester. Your last project was loads better then your first one. Those babysteps add up and before you know it, you look back and can’t believe how far you’ve come. As for working out and eating right, on my first day here I was red-faced and winded after walking up the three fights in the SRC. I started working out in February 2012 and last semester I caught myself running up those same stairs. It takes time, but it gets easier and it’s worth it. I swear. Be easy on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect every single moment of your life. One screw up doesn’t equal complete failure. You can always change course, but just keep moving forward.”
Okay, everyone can see the irony in this situation. Everyone, that is, except for me. Because I’m a jerk who was a in a bad mood for 2 weeks (okay, maybe more then 2 weeks, let’s just call it “a while”) I walked back to my desk thinking, “What was that about? Who am I to give someone advice? The way I feel I should be walking around wearing a black cloak and carrying a sickle. Did I really confess that I sometimes eat 3 Kind Bars a day?” Then I continued to be a ray of gloom for a few more days.
Fast-forward to yesterday and I am driving home from the gym (all my good ideas come in the car, this is why I am a shitty driver. That is what I tell myself, anyway). For some reason this conversation with Marie popped into my head. It finally hit me* that she is me two years ago. She’s putting so much pressure on herself that she can’t see really anything else except what she perceives as her shortcomings. Her own goalpost is so high that it feels like why bother because it’s unreachable anyway. Lately I have been putting so much pressure on myself that there is no way I could measure up to my own impossible standard. I’ve been clutching on so tightly to what I think should be that I couldn’t let anything else in. Sometimes I have these dreams where I am walking and the path becomes almost a vertical wall and the only way I can get to where I need to go is to climb straight up. It does feel that way sometimes (a lot of the time), but in the dream I always make it to the top and get to where I was going. That’s probably something I should remember, too.
The website isn’t quite up 100% yet, but if you want to, you can check out what is up at bethbrousil.com.
(*the sound effects website is going to keep me entertained for the rest of my life)