Words Of Hope

On All The Work You Have

On All The Work You Have October 5, 2015Leave a comment

Words Of Hope Blog-- dedicated to vulnerable writing about my crazy life. Check out my new tab Missed Moments about my experiences on public transportation!

Let me tell you something about all the work you have.

I get it.

You have a paper due tomorrow, but also a midterm. So you’re studying for the midterm all night, then you’ll take the midterm, run to the library to write the paper in the two hour break before your next class when the paper is due, and then you’ll go to close, fight to keep your eyes open because you’re so exhausted, then go back to the library to work on your problem set due the next day, because how were you supposed to work on that when you had the midterm and paper to deal with first?

And then someone asks you to lunch and you say, “Just after Wednesday.” Because after Wednesday things will calm down.

But then it’s Wednesday and you’re saying, “Just after Monday.”

And then it’s Monday and you’re saying, “I just need to make it to Fall Break”, and before long it’s the end of the semester and all you’ve done is incessantly worry about school, spend time with no one, and not enjoy the moment but instead count down the days until the rough days, which are really every day, are over.

Right now you’re really overwhelmed. And it’s not just because you have a lot of work. It’s because you’ve realized that constantly counting down until the next break, then reaching that break and realizing it isn’t a break, leaves you in a constant state of Zombie.

A constant state of Zombie is how I’ve been for the past two weeks. Running on less than five hours of sleep a night, drinking too much coffee, snapping at people that don’t deserve to be snapped at, spending every free minute in the library, cancelling on meetings, running a fever off and on and feeling nauseous (because apparently that actually happens with sleep deprivation…), and not following through with social opportunities because of fatigue and low self confidence.

A constant state of Zombie is not me. It’s also not worth it.

I’ve been in a constant state of Zombie for good grades.

And let me tell you, my grades are freaking good.

But the cost?

I have permanent bags under my eyes, I haven’t really hung out (like sat back and just talked) with people in forever, I haven’t selflessly been there for my friends because I’ve selfishly put my own work over their needs, I’ve gained weight because I’ve sacrificed time for my own health, I haven’t checked in on any of my long-distance friends, and I haven’t posted a blog post in 10 days. I haven’t dressed up in two weeks (and if you read my blog post “On Why I Dress Up”, you’d know that I dress up to feel like I’ve made an effort for the day). I haven’t really checked in with my family, haven’t been mentally present at many of my extracurriculars, and even burst into tears at dinner with friends the other night when I got up to grab a fork and stupidly brought back a knife (because I was overwhelmed by how perfectly that described my week and how all I really wanted to do was sleep).

I’d like to tell you that I’m proud I got a 100 on that quiz when the class average was a 64. I’d like to tell you I’m proud that I aced that midterm that I spent an entire weekend studying for. I’d like to tell you that all of these costs were worth the good grades.

But none of it was worth it.

And it took me going out to dinner with a friend (after he had asked me four different times and I had turned him down every time because I just had too much work) for me to realize why it wasn’t worth it.

You see, at dinner my friend asked me,“What do you do to take care of yourself?”

I looked at him, blankly. “Uh…. I work out? Well, most days.” I said.

He looked at me, blankly. “That’s it?”

Yeah, of course that’s it. What else am I supposed to do?! I have homework! I have studying! I have commitments! I want to be with my friends!

He went on to tell me that if I continued not to take care of myself that I would crash. I would burn out. I would give up. I would stop being me.

And that’s when it hit me.

The underlying reason I’ve felt overwhelmed is because when I am a constant state of Zombie, I am not me. Because what makes me me is my joy, my positivity, my enthusiasm, my passion, my energy, my empathy, my thoughtfulness.

When I am a Zombie, I think about no one but myself. I barely keep my eyes open; smiling takes way too much effort. Everything seems dark and dismal; positivity is out of the question. Being thoughtful? Of course not; thinking at all is difficult from the sleep deprivation.

That’s why the grades aren’t worth it. Because I’m not myself. Yeah, I studied for a test, and got a result that showed I studied for that test. But I didn’t learn, I didn’t grow as a person, I wasn’t there for my friends, I wasn’t even there for myself. And most of all, I lost who I am.

The costs majorly outweigh the benefits.

And that’s why I’m writing this.

Because I know you are in a constant state of Zombie. I’ve seen you. I’ve seen how you start to fall asleep in class, how you’ve become absent-minded and pessimistic. I’ve seen how you’re losing yourself.

And I’m worried.

Because soon you’ll get your grades back. And whether you get 100’s or 50’s, it won’t be worth it. It won’t be worth the 50s, because you could have taken care of yourself if you were still not going to do well. It won’t be worth the 100s because no one cares about you for your grades; they care about you for YOU and by studying so hard for that 100, you lost yourself. You lost the reason people care about you.

I’m finished sacrificing my own wellbeing for a good grade. I’m finished sacrificing who I am for a good grade. I’m finished walking around this campus sleep deprived, unmotivated, pessimistic and angry. Because that is helping no one, especially not myself.

Maybe my grades won’t be as good anymore. But life will be better, because I will be approaching it from a healthy state of mind. I’ll be more available for people. I’ll be able to fall asleep at night, knowing that I was myself and knowing that I will wake up eight hours later instead of four, and knowing that I am valued because of my smile and not because of my performance on a two-hour, subjective assessment that says close to nothing about my intelligence or capability.

I am not discounting a work ethic. I am instead acknowledging that there is a difference between my work ethic and sacrificing my own wellbeing, my sense of self, for grades.

Maybe this change of heart will mean that my grades won’t be as good and that certain doors, certain opportunities, will close.

But every time doors have slammed in my face, bigger and better doors have opened.

First semester freshman year, I got a 60 on a biology test that I studied for for hoursssssss. (That’s a 60 with the curve, people. Like we’re talking I failed.) I called my parents, sobbing, telling them I didn’t belong at Duke, that I would never get into graduate school, that I wouldn’t be able to pursue any career that even remotely involved science, that I should transfer, that I’m not smart enough, that everyone will think I don’t belong here. That night I went to Lilly Library and wrote my first blog post for Words Of Hope. That class caused some doors to slam in my face. But the door that opened was far greater than all of those slammed doors could have been.

Maybe you spend four hours talking to your best friend because her parents are going through a divorce and she needs some support. Maybe you leave that conversation and decide to call your own parents, because you realize you take for granted what it means to have a stable home environment. Maybe you spend the rest of the day not being productive because you’re sad for your friend, you’re a bit overwhelmed with life, and you’re just plain unmotivated. And so maybe you do badly on that midterm. Maybe you don’t get a good grade in that class. Maybe things domino in the most dramatic way possible, where you realize you probably won’t be able to go to med school and now what are you supposed to do?!

All of these doors close on you.

But you’re forgetting the doors that can now open. You’re forgetting the fact that no grade is worth compromising who you are. No grade is worth not being there for your friend. No grade is worth taking advantage of how fortunate you are. No grade is worth walking around like a zombie, counting down the days until the new countdown begins.

Let me tell you something about all the work you have.

I get it.

You have a paper due tomorrow, but also a midterm.

But all of the work you have is completely separate from all that you have as a person. As a person, you have gifts. You have truly unique talents. You have a captivating personality, a unique perspective on life. You have value, beauty, intelligence, and a ton of newly opened doors awaiting you if you just let a few close.

It’s scary, I know. But I don’t want the world to remember me by my grades. I don’t want the world to remember me as I walk around like a zombie. I want to take care of myself, because how am I supposed to take care of anyone else if I can’t even take care of myself?

Let me tell you something about all the work you have.

I get it.

But let me tell you something about all the worth you have.

I see it.

Because it has nothing to do with all of your work and everything to do with how you allow certain doors to close so that you can step into the newly opened ones and be the person who everyone loves, not the walking zombie who relies on her grades for validation.

Words Of Hope Blog-- dedicated to vulnerable writing about my crazy life. Check out my new tab Missed Moments about my experiences on public transportation!

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