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Word Witness


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Words are and always will be my witness. They are special to  me, I need them because they transcend my life and allow me to reach higher.

 

Tension is gripping me again. I know I need writing to cure me because nothing else seems to work on a fundamental level the way writing here does. It is strange to write now- to write knowing that I have lost touch with a part of myself, with months of memory- data that should be on paper.

Paper is the only way I know how to heal myself. When I pour words out, it is like some sort of a miracle. My bruises start healing. My heart flutters out of its state of nervousness and into a state of calm energy and peace. Whatever it is about words that keeps me going- it is ethereal. For me, this is and always will be divinity. And as I am typing today after months and months of looking for relief and not finding any, I feel every muscle in my body relaxing, every knot in my mind unraveling, everything just fading away fast.

What happened to me? I used to write constantly every day for hours on end. I knew it was the thing that made me unique and it was the thing I valued most about myself. Now I keep words blocked behind walls of insane, torturous, intense abandon and tell myself that of course, I will return to them. Where else would I go? I have tried to push myself in many different directions whereas there always was one direction for me to push myself in- towards writing. These rants, these personal blogposts where I record my weaknesses for the world to see are my way of empowering myself, they are my way of screaming into the universe and letting others know that it is okay- okay to fall, okay to fail, okay to forgive yourself, okay to pull back up and okay to do it all over again if and when you must! It is without judgement and fear that I want to be able to exist- and without fear of judgement! A task that is not easy, at all of course but must be done because that’s the only way to not live in a cocoon of absolute misery. And that is a place I refuse to live in. I fight every day, more than many other people but less, much less than hundreds of thousands more and I tell myself that everything I am doing is for some form of temporary reason, some kind of journey. But I often forget to remember that my journey is ultimately one about writing. It is the narrative I unconsciously designed for myself when I was three years old. Younger perhaps. And I stick to it because it works. It heals me, it soothes me, it defines me. I  must find more occasion to let the stories in my head see the light of day- whether they are just stories about me! Or stories about others.

So I am pledging to myself tonight that I will write. Whether it is for 15 minutes in a day or an hour in a week- I will write. I will overcome this mountain of lethargy, of seeking perfectionism, of wanting something bigger and brighter to hit me, of whiling away my time doing things that are important (but can anything really be as important as the relief that floods my soul when I type away on a keyboard or pen my thoughts on a sheet of paper?).

There have been a thousand things running through my mind today- and they usually are on most days, but nothing- nothing helps me sort them better than if I write them down.

It is paper that witnesses my transformation, my growth and degrowth, the spiralling pathways of my life and what may feel like a pointless and random rant is actually the wonderful and very real act of my body purifying itself of all the terrifying, horrible, lurching fears that it has accumulated over a period of time. It is an act of my body telling me- it’s all going to be all right, just hang in there. Why do you have to carry the impossible weight of the world on your shoulders anyway? You have a good, good life- embrace it, live it, feel it. These words are my witness to this catharsis and they are what make my life worthwhile.

And so, if you- whoever you are, feel similar weights bringing you time just remember that not only are you not alone, you’re all right! You’re brave, you’re you- just find yourself, whatever it takes! Do what’s right for your soul. Such abstract advice can be frustrating but it drives at a much bigger truth- only you can find your bandages but you don’t need to do it alone!

PS: This was nothing but my rawest thoughts on paper, expressed for the sheer sense of relief that they make me feel. I promise to write more- I need words more than I realize and while it is easy to stay away, it melts my heart slowly until I feel like I am bursting with thoughts that can’t go anywhere else.

 

 

 

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My Struggle with Perfectionism


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A few months ago, I realized: I AM a perfectionist.

The thought did NOT fill me with a sense of grandiose but left me relieved. I could finally identify myself as a human being who was full of mistakes but HATED herself for making any at all.

I traced back the lines that had led me to this realization. To be very honest with you, it was grad school that did it.

Before grad school, my ideas about life had always led me to think of myself as an idealist. I wanted to write incredible things but there was never enough time; on my good days I was fecund with ideas that filled pages of diaries and posts on this blog, but never lasted.

Grad school was like a hook that pulled me out of the rapids of a stream and brought me to a scratching halt near the stiller shores of real life. Suddenly, I had commitments, responsibilities, and more importantly, the beginnings of a vision.

As I struggled to make sense of mountains of work, all of which was compelling, I started to realize who I really was: I wanted to do EVERYTHING, and I wanted to start from step 1 and work my way to step infinity with zeal, compassion, commitment, sincerity and…perfection. And if that did not work (and it never did, of course), I would tie my hands back- I would give up or give way and produce something I was not happy with and then for eternity drag myself down with guilt. I would deny myself any form of leisure time- at first, because I did not have that sort of time to spare because being a perfectionist meant that I had to give every ounce of my energy to honing my work, and then later as a form of self-inflicted punishment for not doing a good enough job, or as a result of a health constraint that crept up amidst all this nerve-wracking back-and-forth.

It took me a semester and a half- but somewhere along the way, I began to see how hopeless life this way was likely to be. My father’s words started ringing in my head- as a self-declared perfectionist himself, he has often warned me about the perils of falling into the trap. For him, release probably comes through hours of effort which exponentially reduce the additional improvement to his work. For me, release often takes the form of hours spent with my fingernails between my teeth and my eyes on the screen of my laptop or phone, lapping up Youtube videos while anxiety gnashes at my brain cells because I am never good enough to bring anything up to the level that resides within those cells.

All that time I can be outside- walking around, meeting people, exercising, learning more and better with all those dying bits of my mind. Cooking. Blogging. Taking care of my (currently not-so-well) health.

Perfectionism is a deceptive term. I always associated it with neatly done homework, extraordinary creativity, immense knowledge. Today I know, that for me, it is only about stuffy rooms, insomnia, insurmountable lethargy, too many empty promises and dreams so vivid and colorful, they crush me underneath them.

The first step against any struggle, I like to believe, is acceptance. The second step is action. The third is iterative acceptance- because setbacks will happen. And then, hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The road upwards is a spiral and not a straight line. And through it all, I need cautious optimism.

So as summer turns into fall with August, I have to promise myself to put my health on the same footing as my obsessive, self-destructive forms of academic pursuit. Here’s to a healthier start- one that begins tonight!

PS: Fellow grad-schoolers, if you have suggestions, tips and tricks or want to share your own experiences, I would love to hear them.