There are some days where (almost) everything goes right: you sleep in, you get some important errands done, you have a great shift and feel pretty and you have an excellent evening with your friends. You’re doing okay. And then you’re in your car on the way home and you start crying because suddenly, crushingly, you feel like you’re not going anywhere with your life. Because you’re 23 years old and still in school but you are convinced you’re not going to find a job in your field and you’ll have to be a part-time bartender living in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life. And it doesn’t help that “Run, Run, Run” by Joel Plaskett just came on because he is telling you that “if you walk you’ll rust.” Basically, if you don’t get to where you’re going at warp speed, you probably won’t make it.
I don’t know when it started, this feeling that because I wasn’t there yet I wasn’t going to get there at all. But it’s been here, at the back of my throat, for months. I notice it in the little things, watching my friends make strides in their careers or relationships, in the restlessness that accompanies every accomplishment, in the fact that I haven’t slept right in a long time, in the way I feel guilty every time I take a moment for myself. I can’t do the things I used to because they feel too self-indulgent and like they’re not contributing to my future.
But who said everything has to contribute? Why can’t I just enjoy myself? How did I convince myself that I had to keep running or I’d rust in place?
Maybe it comes along with being part of this generation. People are convinced that millennials are lazy and entitled and we’ve subconsciously started pushing, desperate to convince them we’re not. Maybe it’s a feeling of inadequacy seeing a generation of earth shaking people rise up behind me, influencing change while they’re still teenagers. Maybe it’s guilt, because so many people worked so hard to get me where I am and I don’t feel like I’m doing enough with it. Maybe it’s my own perfectionism, stemming from years of an education system that didn’t challenge me in the ways I needed, and didn’t encourage me in the ways I needed either. I’ll probably never really understand.
Almost everything went right today. And yet, here I am, awake at two in the morning because I can’t let myself fall asleep until I get something done. I almost turned down plans with two of my closest friends this weekend because I have so much homework and I don’t want to take any more time off from doing it than I have to, even though those girls are good for my soul and even today made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt. I often find myself running so hard that I’m not taking care of myself, which isn’t fair to me or anyone who has to deal with my dehydrated, sleep-deprived, hangry self.
I took time for myself today, and it’s two in the morning and I feel guilty but I know it was the right call. I slept in, I got some important errands done, I felt pretty and had an excellent evening with my friends. Today, for at least part of the day, I slowed to a walk. And here’s the thing I wish I could convince myself of all the time: I’ll still get there. Spending some money on an incredible meal or hanging out with people I love or going shopping isn’t going to set me back or slow me down so much that I’ll rust in place.
I’m not going to believe this every day. I’m still going to have a lot of days where I cry in the car on the way home, days when I feel like Michael Scott at the end of the “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure” – defeated and uncomfortable. But hopefully, as the days go on, as school gets busier, as my friends keep being the incredible and successful people they are, as I make my way toward my future, I’ll be able to remind myself more often that walking, even though it’s slower, is still progress.