Sunday, February 27, 2011

Under Pressure

Last night I spent some time with my good friends Flopsy and Mopsy.  We’re young, we have our careers on track, we live in Manhattan and we have great friends who are around to celebrate the good times and to hand out tissues and hugs during the bad.  We are living the dream of most 20 something American girls.

So why don’t I feel like my life is a movie?

I’m starting to think that getting to this point in life, or just being successful in general can be a catch 22.  Yes part of it’s luck, anyone who’s ever gotten one of those ridiculous “you were great, but we just couldn’t take you” rejection letters knows that, but most of it is drive. 

I would argue that everyone grows up with an image of who they want to be whether they’re conscious of this or not.  This image will change and grow as we do, but ultimately there’s always an ideal, a prototype of the self you want to become.

As a kid I was painfully shy.  I just wanted people to like me and to think that I was smart and fun and pretty, and maybe even have people wish they were me.  I mean imitation is the most sincere form of flattery right?  And honestly as weird as it sounds, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being that awkward, uncomfortable kid.

As I grew up I pushed myself to work harder in school.  I pushed myself to just do things because I liked them and to put aside my fears of what other people would think or say.  I pushed myself to act like the ideal that I had in my head and through the process of learning to take on that role it stopped being a role and I really did find me.

I realized I am smart and I am pretty and if I just act like myself and let go it’s easy for people to like me.  But the thing is, even though I’ve met all those goals for myself and I’m finally that girl I’ve always wanted to be who juggles school and a social life and who gets what she wants, all while looking charming and collected and I would even go as far as to say pretty damn stylish while doing it, I can’t stop the push. 

In the end no matter how many life tasks I check off my list or how much validation I hear from others all the pressure and anxiety that I feel to be that perfect self is still omnipresent and it’s all coming from inside me.

I once thought that I would become this person and then I would feel happy and settled, but that’s not the case at all.  Now that I’m here I feel the need to constantly defend my position, like some fire breathing dragon sitting on a golden egg and anytime a potential crack in this image starts to snake in I’m sent into a complete panic.

Of course I know that screwing up and forgetting to go to a class or a meeting I was supposed to attend doesn’t mean I’m a complete failure who can’t cut it in school or in life.  Of course I know one jerk of a guy dumping me isn’t an indication of me not being beautiful or not being good enough.  But in the moment, that’s exactly how I do feel and no matter how many times my painfully logical brain tells the pit in my stomach these things it often seems impossible to chase those feelings of failure and inadequacy away.

When the majority of your life is in order it just makes the screw ups stand out that much more.  And being a person who works hard and wants everything, when those screw ups happen I’m not going to shrug my shoulders and walk away, I’m going to say, “how could I have been better?  How could I have done that wrong? What is wrong with me?”

But sometimes I can’t do better, because I’m a girl, not a robot.

Frustrating right?

I’m not saying I’m not happy with who I am or the life I have.  When I sit down and tally everything up and look at what I have and the person I’ve become I really am proud.  But when you’re running from class, to a study session, to the gym, to the shower, to dinner, to the bar to meet your friends when will you ever have time to stop and pat yourself on the back and say “wow, I’m pretty awesome and the life I’ve built is pretty awesome.”  I really don’t have that time, because that would require stopping and coming up for air.

So maybe I need to work on being more forgiving of myself.  Maybe I need to ease up on all those internal deadlines or at least ask myself if trying to stick to them is really helping me along or just creating more guilt and disappointment because I’m not on schedule.  Some things in life can’t be scheduled, and getting angry at myself because a whole month has passed and I’m still not over Samuel Whiskers or because I still don’t know exactly what specialty in my career I’m in love with in the end just makes it that much harder to be happy with myself. 

Some things in life aren’t perfect, something’s in life take time and I need to realize that there will always be enough of it in the end.  What’s the point in being young anyhow?


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