Walking the Talk of “justliving&learning”

In high school, after my ice cream bowl had been put in the dishwasher and I finally found myself scooting my chair into my desk around 8:30 PM, only half my brain would actually be clocking in the hours on homework. The other half of my brain worked even harder to rehash the events of the day. I would replay conversations, scenarios, circumstances, and social encounters in my head until, like a car that’s run out of gas, my mind finally puttered off of Psychoanalysis Lane into sleep.

It would be fine if this psychoanalysis was constructive and just a nice reflective period at the end of the day— a sort of highs and lows team bonding game. But, boy oh boy, was it far from that. This caustic nightly ritual of overthinking only made me feel like I was never enough. I never celebrated my social triumphs; I only called myself out on where I had spread myself too thin, been unnatural, been a bad friend, been whatever. To try and give my only-comes-out-at-night-social-queen alter-ego less material to work with, my self-awareness shot up during the day…which would make me feel even more unnatural. I would read way too much into people’s body language and reactions and mirror others to the point that I was losing myself — because all I wanted was a “perfect” social interaction — one where each party felt satisfied, like they were getting their money’s worth, so that they didn’t have buyer’s remorse at the end of the day. But the only thing I felt buyer’s remorse towards was myself!

The one way that I could escape this daily picking-apart-of-my-day would be 1) when I was in a conversation with someone else 2) when I was working on something that I fully devoted myself to — like journaling or doing certain other activities. One such activity became one of my more rebellious acts of high school (save your gasps…although, there were rule-breaking and tears involved). Instead of putting my number (22) on the back of each basketball shoe (we were being forced to buy uniformly-customized team shoes #doihearcontradiction?), I wanted to ACTUALLY customize my shoes. Feeling a much greater connection to words over numbers, I wanted to think of a pithy phrase that screamed “Grace’s life philosophy!” so, I wrote “Live” on the back of one shoe and “Learn” on the back of the other. My mom (my greatest sounding board and cliche-influencer) frequently says, “you live and learn” (along with other phrases like “trying to quit” when offered something she doesn’t want) and so it reminded me of her and I just loved the sound and simplicity of it. So, I took a deep breath and clicked “Submit” on my order to Nike.

When I’m journaling or shoe-customizing or doing any project I find so important, I could be anywhere I’m so enraptured. I lose track of time and grip on reality. But once I clicked “Submit,” I snapped back into reality, into my room, at my desk, and my brain would start churning again. Maybe because I thought it would alleviate my guilt or maybe because I thought she would (because how could she not?!) appreciate my originality, I sent a screenshot of the shoes to my coach that night. She texted back, “Is this a joke?” In a state of panic, I texted her back a long paragraph about originality and values and she responded with some more curt lines and then, “We’ll talk at practice tomorrow.” Fearing her wrath the next day, I cried out of pity for myself in bed (the first time since my brother left for college)! And I had reason to fear: she told me off in front of my whole team and we had to have several meetings about how my “originality” sabotaged team unity. I stubbornly defended myself for a while, but then she broke me down and I conceded. My strongest instance of acting out without thinking of the future had bit me in the butt and left a sore spot for a while to come. I wore the shoes shyly on the court and came close to vandalizing them with a Sharpie even though it would have been too late to matter. But my offbeat and offbrand disobedience gradually became a joke on the team and and my bruised pride mostly healed by senior year.

You could say I even embraced this past “mistake” and maybe even saw my own side again when I created a finsta with the username justlivingandlearning during senior winter. I wanted my finsta (which 1) I haven’t been very active on since coming to Williams and 2) isn’t a finsta and is open to anyone who wants to follow it so long as we talk in person and have a good rapport) to be a place for me to share observations about myself and the world, in a way that is not critique, but is all about the learning. I wanted it to be a constructive outlet for my ruminating. Although my tendency to think about others’ perceptions has somewhat made me filter my content, I’ve been striving to follow this philosophy throughout senior year and in college.

Why’d I write this post tonight then? It’s because I felt myself slipping into my old hole of analysis-paralysis-perfectionist-grossness and wanted to catch myself. Rather than spend my night brooding over how crazily thin I spread myself today, I’m going to learn from it (which writing out definitely helps me to do) and maybe say “no” to a few more things tomorrow.

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