Hi friends, I am sitting outside soaking in the good spring Cali weather, and I thought today would be a good time for another personal update. Winter quarter as a sophomore has come to a relatively calm close, with only one language final to go before I’m officially on spring break. Today was the first time in a while that I’ve felt really relaxed from top to bottom. I realize that with increasing academic requirements and new friend groups, I’ve been living underwater for most of this quarter – just holding my breath and swimming, one stroke at a time.
You might think I’ll continue on and say, “man, it’s horrible to be busy all the time with so much on my to-do list, and I felt like I was on the verge of drowning in my stress. I hate stress. Blargh blargh blargh.” But, I think I’ve grown from living underwater, and I enjoyed the process despite its ups and downs. I am proud to say that I’ve found a way to learn things without letting knowledge drain me, and most importantly, to feel day-to-day emotional fluctuations without letting them control what I’m worth as a person.
I definitely struggled with emotions in the early part of the quarter. I was lucky enough to receive a wonderful fellowship that basically let me carry out my own research project in China this summer – that was something I’d really worked hard for in the fall, and the feeling of getting that acceptance letter was indescribable. However, along with this great success came new responsibilities – talking to really powerful professors, developing research methodologies, and learning new skills that took me out of my comfort zone. On top of a very full, scary course-load, I doubted my ability to handle the pressure. At the same time, I wanted to reach out and make new friends this quarter – friends who shared my academic interests or were just plain cool to hang out with. Thus, I didn’t want to just bail on all my club meetings or group dinners to read for political science or study research methodologies.It wasn’t just stress. I felt fear.
There was a period after my midterms when I definitely thought I was going to crash and burn. I didn’t know if I was doing well in 4 out of the 5 classes I was taking. Combined with some major PMS (I’m just being real), I felt all the burdens I had weigh down on me at once.
And yet, because I was familiar with this feeling, this time I was able to be resilient. I just refused to let temporal situations defeat my more long-term dreams. I wanted to transcend myself – that is what life is all about, isn’t it? It’s a metamorphosis process. And lo and behold, the last several weeks of the quarter, I had this weird ability to feel an emotion, acknowledge it, and then let it simply pass by without affecting my academic or social self. This quarter, I finally realized how ephemeral and fleeting emotions were – and that made my relationship with them so much healthier. Before, I’d watch a touching video and start crying, but then I’d subject myself to psychoanalytic interrogation: why did I cry? Why am I sad? There must be something essentially, inherently wrong in my life? I took emotions to be these permanent context clues for how my life was going, when in reality they are fleeting reactions to a specific event. This really got engrained when I tried to eat healthier starting three weeks ago. Suddenly, I noticed that if I overate and stuffed myself, it would lead to lethargy and along with that, a buzzing pessimism from feeling like I had a legit stone in my stomach. Was my life a complete mess? No. I just ate too much rice at dinner.
So, TL;DR. This is what I learned from living underwater: I embrace the fact that we are creatures of emotion, but just like we are creatures of instinct, we cannot let emotions define us. Emotions are not our enemies that we must rationalize in order to conquer – after all, they give us our most painful memories, but they also give us our happiest moments. However, what I’ve come to see is that it is my achievements and the personality I’ve molded for myself that defines me at the core. Now that I’ve reached the surface of the water and am free to breathe deeply, I find that I’ve internalized so much invaluable knowledge from my classes and that so many incredible friends now surround me. It’s all because I’m learning to make decisions based on my worth, not my circumstances.
Feel free to share any thoughts! Until next time.