Man, things have been going great for me lately. Does that mean my life is stress-free? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite, in fact. Schoolwork is piling up, and stress is definitely occurring, but I’m knocking things off the pile quickly enough that the stress is kept manageable. Somehow, for the first time in my entire life, I’m able to balance my work appropriately- while also maintaining enough free time to be particularly social at least once a day or so! Kind of sidenote: I realized I need more social time than I thought I did, and that helps keep me from spiraling into a more unstable mental state.
Which is a beautiful segue into our next paragraph! Not the spiraling part, necessarily- the social time part. Growing up, I was very shy. At some point, “shy” didn’t describe it so much as “anxious” did, and I blamed it on the chemicals in my brain. Another sidenote: learning about stuff like that took weights off my shoulders that I’d been carrying around for years thinking I was just lazy or horrible or something, so yeah, mental health awareness is important!
At some point in my youth, it entered my brain that I must be what is known as an introvert, and therefore, I didn’t like talking to people or spending too much time being social. Now, I’m not sure if someone remarked to me that I was an introvert and it just stuck, or if I just read those words once and decided it from there, but either way, it took root in my brain and became an indisputable fact of life.
Throughout elementary and middle school, several more indisputable facts of life sprung into existence. Example: I can’t draw. I remember once, in maybe fourth grade or so, we had to draw a horse for some class. Mine was so horrible that my classmates literally to this day have not forgotten it and every time I put a pencil to paper after that someone near me would snicker about the horse. I mean, don’t get me wrong- I knew it was bad too, so it didn’t bother me that much. It was just a thing. Based off a couple drawings made with absolutely zero art instruction background, but a thing nonetheless.
Another example: I’m bad at running. I was a super slow runner, and everyone knew it. Granted, I wasn’t the only one in the class, but still- there was a group of top-notch runners, and a group of definitely-not-runners, and everyone else fell in the middle as “mediocre”. I was in the group on the bottom of the totem pole, but I just shrugged my shoulders and wished for the couple laps to be over with faster because it was embarrassing. You know that feeling when you’re running in a dream and it feels like you’re running through Jell-O, urging your legs to move faster but they physically can’t even though they’re going way slower than they should be? That was me, trying to sprint, on a weekly basis.
See also: I can’t sing. Oh, but I wanted to, so, so badly. I was so jealous of people that could sing. Alas, my fate had already been decided: despite that I had no vocal training and no one with any sort of authority on the matter had told me that I was a hopeless case, it entered the world anyway, and the whole school knew singing was not my strong suit. Including me.
These were facts, but I will say, one started crashing down even before I left that school. When we were going into the 8th grade, our last year there, we got a new gym coach. The last one was probably a lovely lady, though my view of her at the time was a bit skewed. She had also accepted the unchangeable fact that I was not particularly athletic, and especially could not run. This didn’t really help my view on the matter, you know? Not that I thought there was an issue at the time. I just thought that’s the way I was.
But in the 8th grade, we got a new coach, and that sort of allowed us a clean slate. He was a parent at the (small) school, so he knew most of us as people and knew who the “elite” athletes were, but he took a new approach to it anyway. At that time, we were also beginning to run longer distances than, you know, a singular lap around the soccer field- six laps made a mile, and we ran that alllllll the time. I don’t exactly remember any inciting incidents here, and I really wish I did. At some point, Coach remarked to me about my running ability, to which I’m sure I laughed heartily. He gave me some pointers- “put your shoulders back, and pretend you’re holding two crackers between your fingers that you don’t want to break”- and honestly? I don’t think it was the pointers so much as the confidence boost, but my mile time started to go down. It got good- like, pretty good. The best runners in our class were pulling off around seven-minute miles, but mine was sitting pretty solid at eight and a half. Gym and running the mile became one of my favorite parts of school, instead of the thing I dreaded. People started viewing me not as a permanently slow runner, but as someone who regularly did well on the mile. Finally, Coach suggested to me probably one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done- join the track team.
I was only part of the track team for a couple races, and believe you me, the people I was competing against were way better than me. But you want to know what I did? You want to know what happened when I got out on that track?
I ran a 7:32 mile, the best mile time I’ve ever run to this day.
Was I working out more than in the past? Not at all. Was it because my form improved? Maybe a tiny bit, but I don’t think that’s the main thing. Was it simply because I was growing and my body was capable of running more than I was in the fifth grade? Well, possibly, but I wasn’t running that far. No, I had just learned that sometimes, the bars we find ourselves trapped behind are our own doing, and I had unintentionally confined myself to a label that didn’t actually define me. I graduated 8th grade feeling very proud of myself, and was thinking of joining the cross country team in high school. Turns out sprinting is still not my game- though it absolutely could be if I worked at it enough, I just don’t have the particular desire to do that at this moment in time- but endurance running is much more up my alley and I enjoy it.
Now, I didn’t end up doing cross country, because I was worried my Pre-AP classes would overwhelm me enough. Looking back, that was probably a good call- I didn’t have great schoolwork management skills in high school, and needed those four years to make mistakes and learn time management while the stakes were still low(ish). High school in general made everything crazy and put a stop to my self-discovery thing. Maybe I would’ve questioned those other “facts” of life had I not been so preoccupied on making friends and looking cool. Ugh, I’m literally cringing writing this right now. Nope nope, we’re moving on now. Paragraph change, stat!
I’ve written twice now about that art class I’m in this semester, and frankly, I think my other classes are starting to get a little hurt at all the attention Design I is receiving, but I have to mention it at least once more. One recurring assignment we have in this class is to sketch, typically to recreate a sketch he gives us. The very first one was two sketches, actually, and one was a simple outline of Cindy Bear (Yogi Bear’s girlfriend, you know the one?). The other one was a Da Vinci sketch, and while I made it quite clear in my last post that this one was not exactly the best in the class, I was proud of it regardless! I think it helped that I did Cindy first, and since she was just lines with no shading or cross-hatching or anything fancy, she went really well. With zero drawing instruction, essentially tossed to the wolves (don’t worry, our sketches aren’t graded for accuracy so much as effort and these might not be graded period!), I discovered that not only was copying Cindy with nothing but my eye actually super fun and stress-relieving, but something in me kind of clicked and I was able to discern the angles necessary to make her look right. I remember stopping halfway through and just observing my own work, thinking, hey… I might have sort of an eye for this?
That was a week ago, at my family’s annual Labor Day lake weekend. Funnily enough, that weekend I also caught some sun and it gave me a little bit of color- previously, myself and everyone who knows me has always said, “oh, I don’t tan, I just burn”. But this time I didn’t? And then I drew a really good drawing, or at least, way better than I expected? And it got me to thinking.
What else am I using to confine myself?
I’ve changed a lot since I was younger, and college especially is the time to break all those chains and rediscover who I am. Previously, I’ve held onto everything and refused to delete, and throw away, or forget. I’m still not super delete-happy; I mean, my phone currently has over 15 gigs of saved text messages. But some of my posts from this summer highlight just how far I’ve come in that regard, and being this new, more genuine me is liberating. I’m discovering that I’m actually way more of a Type B person than I thought I was. I think acting Type A was kind of draining me, but for some reason, I thought it was who I was meant to be. But even though I’m most likely a mix of the two, I’m definitely much more Type B than I thought I was growing up. It’s honestly, 100% been the best discovery- I feel like I can breathe easier.
I’m also toying with the thought that maybe I’m not quite as introverted as I always believed I was. I have this inner desire to talk to people more- random people, that I encounter in my day-to-day life. A college campus is a great place to start that. I maintain that college interactions are my favorite interactions, and usually the funniest. It helps that we usually have common enemies- midterms, opposing football teams, rain.
I can’t wait to fully chip away all the inaccurate layers of myself to reveal the true me, waiting underneath. I think I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get to her for a while now, but haven’t been going about it the right way. This time, though, I finally understand what’s going on, and I’ve suspended any and all assumptions of reality. Like physics, I’ve assigned a set of rules to my reality, but you know what happens when one of the laws of physics is broken? It means our understanding of reality is wrong, and we must tentatively start from a square one to reconfirm all the things we thought we knew to find the inaccuracy.
That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m eating moderately spicy food and I’m running a half marathon in January and I’m really enjoying drawing in my sketchbook despite the fact that I’m literally procrastinating doing that right now by writing this post. I can cook better than I thought I could, my singing voice isn’t totally crap, and I’m finally trying Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday, which I’d previously put off for ages. I’m open to trying new things, to making plans I normally would’ve said no to, to seeing movies by myself (soon!), to giving up on things that are truly not working and dragging me down without feeling bad about it. I’m being nicer to myself, I’m not using old rhetoric to describe what I want to do in life (I’m in the process of figuring that out, but I’m not stressing about it), to just going for it, jumping into doing things despite the fear of being laughed at or being horrible or whatever.
I am slowly becoming the happiest version of myself, and that is who I’m meant to be.