In less than a week, I head back to graduate school. 11 years ago, I started my undergraduate journey at a small college in Central Kentucky.
To put it politely: I was a basketcase.
I obsessed over things that, in the long run, just didn’t matter. For example, my freshman year in the one credit physical education class, I wrote a nearly 10 page paper about my daily health habits. I showed up 20 minutes early to a weightlifting class that I took at my advisor’s suggestion (just in case I ended up dropping a class and wouldn’t dip below full-time). I once cried because the schedule I planned was ruined because a class I wanted filled up before I could register. As I finished my first master’s degree, I painstakingly sifted through my final paper for a misplaced comma or erroneous data.
Who obsesses like that? I’ll tell you: It’s me. Was my physical ed teacher looking for a 10 page paper? No. Did the coach who taught weightlifting need me there 20 minutes early? No. These things just didn’t matter.
To say that I grew out of this anxiety and hyper-planning would be a lie. It followed me after I graduated and into my career. I worried if I didn’t show up somewhere 20 minutes early (Can’t be late to being early! was the idea), I worried if all my ducks weren’t in a row. I texted people non-stop to keep them posted if my plans slightly changed (I can’t keep them waiting!). The list goes on. Perhaps you recognize this behavior because you too are like me.
My mom, the consummate advice giver, recently said “This time, don’t stress out.”
Translation: It’s never that deep. Don’t let anxiety over perfect grades and perfect performance ruin your time at Columbia. Think about this as your “second chance.”
She’s not wrong. I blame my anxiety and hyper-controlling/anxious/need for utmost perfection to missing out on a lot of fun experiences in college because I was too worried about perfecting my writing technique on Old Testament theophany. Instead, I could have been out winning mad money at Keeneland’s College Scholarship Day.
As I prepare for the new semester and my new journey, I find myself going back to my default setting: Control.
This time, however, I’m embracing it.
Yes, I’m an anxious control freak and I’ve finally come to terms with this reality. I like perfection, I like my ducks in a row, I like schedules, I like rules, I like order. I crave structure and will do almost anything to maintain it. I’ve tried to rewire my brain to avoid this tendency, I’ve tried to “chill,” I’ve tried to “let it go.”
But, for me, it’s not that easy. What is easy, though, is recognizing that at some point during this semester, I will struggle with anxiety and unrealistic expectations. I will probably call my mom, crying, asking her why I thought this whole thing was a good idea. I’ll stare at my fiancé as he tells me, “Goose, just chill.”
And you know what? I now expect that my anxiety and perfectionism will crop up and I know that at the end of the day, everything will be okay. Nothing is ever that serious in life.
So this semester, I know I’ll never know how to “chill.” I know it’s just not in my personality or nature. But, what I can do is anticipate my own quirks and go from there.
Perhaps that’s first step to everything else.
How do you embrace your quirk? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing on your favorite social media outlet or emailing to a friend.