By: Hannah Paige Michels ~Photography Editor~
I’m a Type A personality. I’m organized and impatient, and I hate failure. I expect a lot of myself and, in turn, expect a lot of others. School has always come very easily to me. When my grades have been anything less than a solid A, I feel extremely defeated and embarrassed. Getting a 92 percent or, God forbid, an 89 percent, is simply unlike me. The number of times I’ve cried over a grade on a single assignment is probably concerning.
Being preoccupied is a necessity. I need to feel productive so that I also feel accomplished. This makes it difficult to relax and stop thinking about school, work or even hobbies. I don’t know where this mentality came from. My parents never had to push me in school, my teachers always knew I would perform well and I expected myself to be the best at everything.
When I was filling out college applications, I heard whispers that even the smartest kids in high school would become average students once they got to college. I was determined to be anything but that. I was going to be the kid who was consistent, who still got the grades, made time for myself and my friends and kept my creative outlets open. For three semesters at Xavier, I was doing just this. I had a full class schedule, two or three extracurricular activities, a part-time job, a social life and still managed straight-As.
Maybe it’s the sophomore slump or the unpredictable Midwestern winters, but I flipped a switch this semester. I stopped being a perfectionist.
The beginning of spring semester, I thought things wouldn’t change too much. I was taking the same class load, participating in the same activities and still working part-time. I could handle this, I had done this before. I have a hard time saying no to responsibilities because I like being the girl who has a lot on her plate and is still magically able to manage everything. But romanticizing overworking and stress isn’t worth my time. It’s not reality, and it’s not healthy.
So I stopped.
You can’t be the manic pixie dream girl (or guy) in indie movies. You shouldn’t want to be a mysteriously accomplished person who has everything going on and still magically makes time to do nothing all day, because that person isn’t real.
Even though I could handle all of the responsibilities I’d taken on and still manage to perform well in school, I was more of a robot than anything else. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I wasn’t spending enough time with my friends and I certainly wasn’t taking care of myself. I stopped feeling like a person. I was constantly anxious and had the hardest time convincing myself to complete my work.
I thought the idea of “spreading myself thin” was just an excuse to do less with my time. But when my responsibilities were stacking up and I stopped caring about things I thought were important to me, I began losing pieces of myself. The idea of constantly working, producing and achieving is appealing, but seeing life through a rose-tinted lens will only ever end in disappointment.
I would beat myself up for not making it to the gym five times a week like the girls on Instagram or for taking a break to watch Netflix when I could be getting a jump on homework that wasn’t even assigned yet. I wouldn’t let myself shut off. I wanted to be perceived as a certain kind of person, but I couldn’t actually fulfill that role while also maintaining my sanity.
I can’t do everything, and that realization was devastating. However, this allowed me to slow down, accept defeat and reclaim myself.
I still feel a tugging to be the best at everything I do, but I’m learning that I’m OK with just being OK. I don’t have to be great at biology or statistics or history because I don’t care about those things. I’d rather be great or learn to be great at things that I’m passionate about like film, production and writing. We pick a major for a reason, and I’m perfectly content putting my effort into things that matter to me the most. I’m just trying to be better than I was yesterday.
Doing well in school will always be important to me. I value education and achievement. However, I’m learning to forgive myself for not having an arbitrarily high grade in every subject. Last week, I got an 83 percent on a test, something that my high school self would have immediately began crying about at her table. My college self knows that I just tried my best. In life, that’s all you can do.