Can one resolve to be more chill?
Last semester was absurdly hard, largely because I committed myself to the impossible [for me at least] at the beginning of it. For that first month plus that I was ostensibly taking four doctoral seminars and t.a.ing for the first time, I was perpetually conscious of all that wasn’t getting done. I couldn’t draw a complete breath. And this triggered OLD anxiety and impostor syndrome thoughts that took what was admittedly hard and made it painfully hard… harder. I knew this. I knew that I just needed to breathe and do my best and trust God and not let the perfect get in the way of the good (yes, Debbie, I’ve been listening). But I couldn’t. It was too much. And for lots of reasons being faced with too much is REALLY triggering for me.
So I made that decision to drop the one class for which I had done the least amount of work and though I had never dropped a class in my life I immediately felt relief. The semester continued to feel hard, but it no longer felt impossible. And I began to be able to breathe again, and to trust, on most days. Tearful conversations with professors faded away and productive work kicked in.
I was haunted a bit by not having a clear and sharply focused research question yet (as in, for my dissertation). This was fueling the anxious impostor stuff. But… the work I did at the end of the semester, in that crazy paper crunch from Thanksgiving to December 18th when I clicked send on the last paper, opened up a lot of intriguing trails for further research. I ended the semester feeling like I had done work on which I could build. I still don’t have a sharply focused research question, but… I’m doing generative work that I want to keep pursuing. THIS IS PROGRESS! And this is fine with me.
I received tremendously positive feedback at the end of the semester. It was hard to fathom how I could have begun the semester in such a weak and shaky place and end in such a strong place. My brother says “What do you expect? You always do really well.” But… truly… this was HARD. O.K., I always think that. But… I am dumbfounded.
On the drive home for Christmas I began to think about the ways in which my poor assessment of my own strengths is a liability. The unbloggable difficulty at the end of the semester was a part of what revealed this to me. If I can just breathe, trust, and know my gifts… I can use them responsibly and sensitively and effectively…
If I could do so well in such a demanding semester, I think that I need to chill. I need to breathe, trust… I want to resolve to do this in this new year, this new decade (I didn’t even realize we were rolling into a new decade until last last night). Really, I suppose, this is a resolution about being not doing. I want to be more relaxed.
I don’t know, however, if my personality lends itself to this resolution.
Any tips, friends, for how to cultivate such trust and calm in an anxious, wired woman?