more life, less school
I was going to write something different today. More of a reflection, really, about the new year. But I woke up with a bad head cold, so I spent most of today in bed instead. I felt like my body had been telling me to rest for a while, and when I didn’t, it decided to knock me on my ass. So, I was smart and listened.
Today wasn’t a total loss. I had a random thought in my head, so I decided to work on the thesis again. I’ve redone it a million times by now, but this one feels like it might stick. I have a month or so to get it done, and as simple as this should be, I know not to procrastinate. So, I got some organization in and realized–if I stick to this plan–I have about half already written. It’s just filling in the gaps and making it sound pretty. I emailed my prof and editor to get feedback. It’s so stupid simple I can’t imagine there’ll be many criticisms–except for, well, that.
Despite that, I had a bear of a time putting it together. Even this skeleton version of what was. I found myself still wanting to follow class guidelines and still being torn about not fitting the examples. The good girl-perfectionist-people pleaser inside me felt wrong–like the project was a total crapfest and I’m headed for doom. The rebel adult in me said, “Eff this–I’m doing it my way.” Yet another battle between six year old me and 26 year old me. Yet another round of shame, anger, and not feeling worthy. It’s the ultimate tug-of-war, and I don’t have time for this shit. Luckily, it happened after I finished what I was doing. But I know it’s going to follow me until it’s done.
I’ve honestly never felt like this about a project. Especially one where I’m so competent. I’ve never been one to pick cookie cutter things, but for whatever reason, this thing is blowing up the parts of me I haven’t yet healed. Recently, I discovered that everything bad in my life comes from a core feeling of unworthiness. The idea that I don’t deserve anything good. I didn’t know it was still there. Or ever was there. Not for things like this.
After feeling all of that, I basically just reminded myself of my boundaries with this thing. No matter what, I am committed to finishing. To doing something every single weekend till it’s done. But I found myself wishing I could disassociate at will. Ha. Turns out, that crappy childhood was how I got through it all those years. But, now, when I want to do it, I absolutely can’t.
So, I’m kinda forced to deal with it. But I’m learning I can’t wait for the triggers to happen. I have to systematically start figuring out what tools I’m missing and do the work to acquire them. And just put my head down and work when the gremlins aren’t biting.
One of the interesting things about feeling triggered is that you get random insights into how you actually feel about things. Tonight, I started noticing something. Something not good. And it made me think/feel/whatever that maybe school is not the best choice for me. At least not right now. I am absolutely finishing this stupid thesis, but my plans to get a PhD might be changing.
I have a complicated relationship with academia. I don’t feel part of it–though I’m smart and usually good at the art of being a student. I don’t like the rules and the whole system of it, really. But I love learning. I like the structure and the safety I feel while I’m in it. Being a student is something I understand. When I was a kid, it was the only thing that made sense. Learning was the only thing that I could do to escape. Knowledge was the one thing that would never abandon me–the one thing no one could take away. I could count on being valued there.
So much of my identity and self-worth came from school. From observing and mastering the rules. From winning the approval of teachers and the envy of peers. I worked hard at it, and it was fair. That’s probably why I kept going back to it when my life felt scary or when I couldn’t make choices. It was a way to hide from things I didn’t understand or wasn’t ready to deal with. But it was also a way to numb out–to focus on what I thought instead of what I felt. To abandon big parts of myself and have ways to weasel out of situations that made me hurt.
School gave me legitimate reasons to avoid dealing with my life. And something that could make me feel good about it. No one could fault me for focusing on my future–my dreams. Even I couldn’t.
But I guess school started feeling bad as I started getting better at living. At feeling. The rules felt stupid. I knew all of them, but–suddenly–I was just unwilling to do things on those terms. So, I started rebelling by not taking it seriously. By procrastinating. By focusing on life instead of that pillar of everything that was before. Like some child abandoning its mother.
So, I’m thinking really hard about what’s next for me. I’ve wanted to get my MSW and PhD for a while now. But I don’t know if doing that is going to just recreate the misery and dysfunction in my life. I don’t know if it’ll just feel like this felt. And if it does, I know I won’t tolerate it.
I’ve planned to take a year off, anyway, so I think I’m going to just try living this life instead of waiting to work on future lives. Lord knows I have enough shit to do. I have a decent life now. No need to rush to change all of it–as I have been. It’s not actually broken, unless I keep treating it like it is.
I think I need to start doing the things represented in that life. No–I can’t be a therapist without credentials. But I CAN work in my community. I can be more loving to my friends. I can work on living a better life more reflective of what’s inside. I can do all those things I dream about–without credentials–without doing them for a living. And if those things bring me joy, maybe that will be the confirmation that the next step needs to happen. But until then, I think I’ll just postpone that decision until it needs to happen.
It’s about time I started worrying about, and living in, now.