|November 12, 2013||Posted by Katy under Inner Musings, Life Update|
When I was eleven, I came to Washington DC for the first time. It was the summer before I started middle school and it was the summer before 9/11. It was the summer where I fell in love with a city instantaneously. I’m not exactly sure what made me fall in love with DC and Alexandria, VA. Maybe it was the excitement of a “big” (to me at least) city or maybe it was the “cool” Metro (oh how naïve I was!) or maybe it was the memorials and monuments. Whatever it was, I knew that this was the place where I was supposed to live. I was barely eleven and goals and dreams change all the time, but it was a personal goal that was so deeply rooted in me, that I knew it would happen one day.
The following year in my sixth grade English class, we had to keep a journal. Every day, my teacher would give a prompt and we would have to free write for 5-10 minutes. While I hated school because of the bullying and teasing I endured for many years, I loved English class because it was where I could let my passion for writing flourish and develop. When I was home for Christmas last year, I came across my journal and one particular entry- “Myself in Ten Years.”
“In ten years, I want to have just gotten out of medical school. I want to be a child doctor. I want to open my own business. It would be from ages 0-18 years. I would start small then work up.
I would like to live in Virginia. I have always wanted to live there. I would have a small house with a cat or two. I would also have a dog. Right out of my bedroom window I could see a garden. In my house I would have: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, study/living room, and a laundry room.”
These are pretty big ambitions for a twelve year old. At the time, being 22 was a distant idea. Now that I’m 23, I can actually go back and laugh at my younger self. I’m not a recent medical school graduate nor am I starting my own business. I don’t own a fancy house or have a dog. However, I do live in Virginia and have a cat and while I may not have a garden outside my apartment window, I do have a view of a beautiful tree. So I got some things right…
However, I have misstepped many times in the past ten or so years, especially over the past three. I’ve always been a dreamer and at times, an overachiever. I was the girl who needed to do it all. Get straight A’s, make all of the sports teams, be in all the drama productions, be active in all of the clubs at school, etc, etc. I had to do it all. No one told me that I had to but it was an unexplainable innate drive that consumed me. Part of it was the pressure to be the perfect child for my parents since I was their only one (and therefore, if I messed up, there’s no redo) and part of it was that I placed my self-worth in everything that I could achieve. Failure was not an option for me and I would not stop until whatever I was doing was perfect.
Sometimes this passion was good. I graduated with over a 4.0 average in high school, worked my ass off to go to state for track and field my last two years in high school, and got accepted into some decent colleges.
This also meant that I set some lofty goals for myself and put a time goal on each and every one of them. I always felt like I had to get to point A and then immediately to points B, C, and D. Everything had to be linear and if I meandered off that straight path, then I had messed up and had to do damage control. It also put a lot of unneeded stress on myself and ruined a lot of friendships because I was always choosing school work, practice, and rehearsal over trying to make friends and have some fun from time to time.
I was on a straight path until the summer before my junior year of college. That summer, I began to run. I started running as a way to burn calories, when I was already starving myself to fit the perfect body mold I thought I needed. Despite being very active almost my entire life, I never viewed myself as being particularly “fit” on the outside. Years of continuous bullying in middle and high school left some deep emotional scars which I still battle with every day.
However, in the summer of 2010, those scars were the deepest, but it was also the summer when I, unknowingly, started to work on healing them a little through running. One mile became two and three. A 10 minute mile average became 9 minutes and soon dropped to 8. The girl who ran a 30+ minute 5K at her first cross-country meet in high school ran a sub-8 minute pace per mile 5K four years later. It didn’t take long for me to start training for my first half-marathon, which I ran in January 2011 in under two hours, blowing my time goals out of the water.
When I crossed that finish line (and perhaps in the months prior), something changed within me. I was stronger mentally and physically than I ever could have imagined and I started to view myself in a little bit of a better light. I also began to question whether I wanted to pursue theatre as a career (as I was studying musical theatre at the time). A few months later, I decided that musical theatre was not in my future as a career option. Instead I wanted to go to graduate school for public health so I could start/ work in a non-profit organization targeting children and promoting healthy lifestyles.
Flash forward to present day. I am in an amazing graduate school program in my favorite city in the world… and I hate it.
I hated it from day one. Every romantic idea I had of school went down the drain the moment I walked into the classroom for my first class. Don’t get me wrong… I knew going in that graduate school was no joke. It takes hard work, dedication, and determination. At first I thought it was my nerves but as the next few weeks went on, my anxiety levels increased and I started to dread going to class (except my environmental health class which ironically, was a class I added at the last second and actually do enjoy).
Every time I walk into class, I see the excitement and the passion that my peers have around me and I soon realized that I did not share that same passion. I was scared, anxious, and for the first time in my life, felt very stupid. Midterms did not go well in three out of four of my classes and I ended up withdrawing from a class because I could not balance the course load with my obligations at work.
Right after midterms, I had a meeting with my advisor to tell her my thoughts. After some thinking, I decided that a full graduate program is not right for me after all, at least not right now. It pained me to say those words because I have deviated from my “perfect” timeline from point A to B to C. I told her my thoughts and how my classes were going and then she took a moment and said:
“Katy, you are smart. I could tell that when you walked in. And you are very thoughtful and careful with what you say. I get the feeling that you have never failed before. So why don’t you let yourself fail for once? Experience that. Explore that feeling. And build from that.”
I didn’t know what to think at first. I had literally met her 10 minutes prior and now she’s telling me to fail? That word is not in my vocabulary.
But then I thought about it…and she’s right.
Which leads me to this long and rambly novel tonight.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the future. I’m afraid that I’m never going to have the perfect life that I had always dreamed of. I’m afraid that I will never fall in love or have the dream house I wanted when I was twelve. I’m afraid that I will always hate myself and how I look. I’m afraid that I will never be the perfect daughter, no matter how much I try. I’m afraid that I will never achieve all of the athletic goals that I have for myself. I’m afraid that I won’t make a difference in the world. I’m afraid that I will never achieve my fullest potential.
But I’m not afraid of failure any more. The word failure always had a sense of finality to it. If you failed at something, then you were done and that was it.
However, I am not done; I’ve only just begun. There are a lot of dreams and goals that I want to achieve in life and I probably won’t achieve them all. I want to go to Italy and revisit England, I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I want to complete an Ironman, I want to fall in love, I want to start writing again, I want to help people. The list goes on and on.
Winston Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” I may not be a doctor like I wanted to be when I was twelve, or a Broadway actress like I wanted to be when I was eighteen, or even enjoying graduate school like I wanted to be just six months ago. But I am allowing myself to relax and let go a little. I’m slowly learning that life is not one big “to-do” list and that I have to have a set time goal on everything in order to be successful.
I’m making more time for friends and an actual social life, I’m training for a marathon, and I’m making plans to explore more opportunities at work in the next coming months. And for once in my life, I find myself truly and unequivocally happy.
I’m afraid of what my future might hold… but it is also what excites and motivates me.
Hello… do you remember me? I’m Katy if you have forgotten. I used to update this blog rather frequently for two years, but then stopped all of a sudden. Why? I don’t know. I kept telling myself that I would get back into it. That I would post new content at least three times a… (keep reading…)
I still (STILL!) owe a recap on my half-marathon from APRIL and then a recap on the triathlon that I did yesterday, but I wanted to share this little piece of news… Everything comes full circle I suppose… more information to come (I pinky promise!). Get Shareaholic (keep reading…)
Wow… so… it’s been awhile. Is anyone out there? I knew that I would take a little time to write my race recap from my last race (with a PR to boot) but I certainly did not intend to take an entire month off from blogging. In all honesty, I DID write my race recap.… (keep reading…)
So, today I ran a last second half-marathon and this happened… More about the new PR in my official race recap later this week. I’m not in the best of spirits this evening so I will write when I’m a little more chipper (and the official results are posted). This one was for you Boston.… (keep reading…)