Since I started writing for the Rock back in early February, literary expression has become a facet of my every day life. I consistently turn to written word to express whatever I am feeling, good or bad, and it generally produces something worth reading, though much of what I write is for my own benefit.
Lately, I have been reflecting on my first year at BC and wondering about the lessons it taught me, ways I have grown, and where to carry myself from here. I have repeatedly tried to channel much of this into my writing, to no avail. Sixteen half written articles later, here I am giving this lingering idea one last chance to come to life; to make sense for me, or for someone else.
I was born and raised a perfectionist. The only girl in a family with two older brothers, I was groomed to be the intelligent bookworm of the bunch. My brothers, nineteen years later, are successful in their own rights, but I always felt a certain pressure to succeed, to put whatever it was I’d earned to good use.
I worked extremely hard to be the perfect friend, the perfect student, the perfect daughter. In sports, what I lacked in skill I made up for with effort, and I always made an impact on the field in whatever way I could. It was like I was working to be something else, something better than what I really was.
Looking back, a year since I have done anything arguably close to perfect, I see now that what encouraged me to be so flawless was always something just out of reach. There was always something I could do better, something else I could master, someone else to prove my worth to.
Even in relationships that are highly intangible, I have always tried to plan and execute how to be the best me I could be; a struggle that was never successful. Striving for absolute perfection in romantic relationships is a surefire way to bring about failure. There is no equation to understand the way someone’s heart functions, there is no way to understand what someone else sees in you. I have learned that all I can do is put my best foot forward and remember that there is beauty in every imperfection.
This attitude, similar to that which I carried through every realm of my life, has been detrimental. While I always believed that shooting for the stars was a healthy mindset, there is something unsafe about reaching for the impossible and refusing to be satisfied until it is reached. I’ve conditioned myself to be unhappy in nearly every situation where there is always a flaw to be found, or an aspect that is lacking. I’ve trained my mind and heart to see only the negatives and rarely the positives, and have yet to truly embrace things when they are good, even if they are not perfect. Similar to the impossibility of perfection itself, nothing has ever been enough.
Sitting here, as I write this article, I wonder: why am I not happy today? What is keeping me from being content today? What is it that I want?
I’ve never been good at things that are outside of my control. In high school, I wasn’t one for risk taking, was never good at putting myself out there, and never once made a choice that I wasn’t entirely sure of.
I didn’t take many leaps of faith, I boxed myself in with the same friends I had always had and I wondered why I never felt entirely fulfilled – but nonetheless, I never seemed to get hurt either. What I wanted was a messy, dramatic life full of passion and risk, and that’s what I aimed for once I got to school.
First semester reflects that attitude perfectly. I set out to be everything I had never been. I drank too much, smiled too wide, and never cried unless in the (rare) solitude of my forced triple. Aside from the first few weeks during which I fooled even myself, everyone around me could see that I was melting, but I couldn’t see it myself.
It was only in the middle of the spring that I was faced with the legitimate truth. My roommate, one of my closest friends at school, came to me with some scary observations. For the first time, I realized that something was wrong.
“Kate, you look really skinny today,” was the first comment. Followed by, “do you want to get dinner?” “No,” I would always reply. I went to the infirmary an incredible thirteen times second semester, with everything from the flu to migraines, and neither I nor any doctor could put together the pieces of this puzzle. I ended up losing twenty five pounds from the beginning of 2015, a dramatic message my body was trying to send me all along.
Later that month, my roommate had yet another revelation to share. “You seem to cry a lot,” she told me, in the most innocent, loving way possible, yet I took it more than personally.
In retrospect, she was the only person that saw what was happening to me, and I couldn’t see it myself. Generally a happy person, she understood that I wasn’t on an even keel, that one day I could cover up whatever I was going through, but the next I would be a mess. I cant recall the number of times one of my roommates would come home to find me sobbing at my desk. She would ask me what was wrong and wait for me to deny ever shedding a tear. Essentially, it was the worst period of my life, and there seemed to be no reason for it at all.
There were also facets of my year that were positive. I made a few amazing friends, who kept me running when I really couldn’t do it myself, and who I made no effort to please. They simply loved me for who I was, which is something that I have found to be more and more rare as the days pass.
The good and the bad always come in the company of each other, and this was simply a terrible year for me. A year is quite a long time, and the pressure to return to Chestnut Hill a happier version of myself is very real, which brings me to an aforementioned flaw: perfectionism.
Everyone is programmed differently and I have been challenged with depression and anxiety. I never faced a true obstacle or uncertainty until I went off to college, shattering the ever-present perfectionism that I had always carried with me. August 27, 2014 was the first day of my life that wasn’t perfectly planned out.
Sure, I’m oversimplifying the situation, but the point remains the same. I was unable to cope with not knowing who I would meet, how it would make me feel, and how I would get through the days. At first, I drowned this out with an intense amount of fun, forcing the smiles and literally numbing any discomfort along the way. I put myself out there in all the wrong ways, falling into the arms of Mr.Wrong time and time again.
Looking back, I wish I could have pressed pause on the year and gotten my head together, but that’s not how life works. I wish I could have relaxed for a moment, long enough to realize who I was and who I was trying to be. I lost myself in the heat of the moment every weekend, and floundered through my classes each weekday. I had a work study I despised, only liked half of my friends, and was absolutely miserable inside my own head. Oh, how I wish I could have seen it at the time.
Second semester carried the same issues, though embodied in a new relationship. I was insecure, unsure of what I wanted, unsure of who I was, and was an unhealthy ball of stress. How I made it through that period with a lovely boy still by my side is nothing short of a miracle, but that’s a story for another time.
Summer was supposed to be the saving grace, the time to sort it all out and regain my balance. Here I am, approaching the end of July and it seems that there are still things to solve and lessons to learn. In my mind, it feels as though I have made little progress but then again, a perfectionist mind is never one to see the bright side.
I have hid behind the struggle of perfectionism, depression and anxiety for far too long. I have concealed my flaws in ways that felt natural to me and I have convinced myself that until I am perfect, there is no one that will love me. I have tortured myself with these thoughts each and everyday for my entire life, but only recently have I understood the destruction they have caused.
Through my struggle, I have reached out to so many people and learned that some have the capacity to listen while others do not. I have learned that depression isn’t a character flaw, and while happy people are easier to love, true love doesn’t wait for perfect people or perfect circumstances. I have learned that having a little faith can never hurt, and giving people the benefit of the doubt doesn’t make you naïve, it makes you a good person. I have learned that I would rather trust someone and get hurt, than never have loved them at all. I have learned that sometimes, vulnerability is worth the reward it brings.
More than those realizations, I have learned that there is no better compass to life than the one I hold inside myself. While I have spent the past year tearing down my self-esteem, I am regaining it little by little, relearning to have faith in my ability to live life to the fullest. Though this year has been tumultuous, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, the shining star that reminds me it will all be okay one day. And hey, maybe that day is today.
So, I leave you with the advice I wish I had received at the beginning of this year. Trust yourself. Say what’s on your mind. And always remember that you are MORE than enough.