What Happened When I Stopped Putting Pressure on Myself

Ever since I was young, I've been a consummate over achiever. Here is what my senior year in high school looked like: 5 Advanced Placement Classes, anywhere from 10-20 hours of swimming a week (practice, weight room training, meets), roughly 5-10 hours of life guarding a week, random leadership positions in various clubs, and blogging. I was also consistently somewhat sick (constant coughing with "I'm fine!"), I had a huge mark on my face from some skin condition no one could quite figure out, constant fatigue (many a days were spent falling asleep in study hall hours), and I was really bad at learning how to express my frustrations or anger. Like really bad. I'm still working on it. 

In short, I seemed like I had my shit together, but I was miserable. I hardly hung out with people outside of swimming and school hours. I wasn't much fun. All I wanted to do when I was exhausted was crash and watch random K-pop videos and variety shows. It's sad, though, because if I'm being perfectly honest, I had this secret, slightly masochistic pleasure in being worked to the bone. What's with that? I liked being able to give someone a disdaining look when they were complaining about their workload and then spouting off about my own and pointing out how I had much more and was making it work. Yeah, guys, I was that chick.

I don't know why I was like that. To a lesser extent that over-achiever crept its way into my college years, and it's taken being out of that competitive, academic zone to find some sort of inner peace (how yogi of me, right?). I put a lot of pressure on myself through my academic career, and I frankly don't know why. I think I had these fantastical dreams about being famous for some crazy, cool thing I did when I was young. I wanted to get to that level of "I made it" before I hit twenty, but I had no actual passion for one specific thing. I always say, and I still do, that writing is my true passion, and one day I'll be this crazy novelist working silly hours pouring my heart into some inspiring, life changing story. However, I had been so busy trying to prove something (to me, to people, who knows?) that I lost what it meant to be a writer. 

How could I write about life when I wasn't experiencing it? My over-achiever path wasn't exactly leading to any breakthroughs, and it was having a serious impact on my over all pursuit of happiness. I was unhappy; I was lonely, and I often had this feeling of being insignificant. It's one thing to be a blip in a population of 6 billion; it's quite another to realize that in all of your various friend circles, your presence wasn't exactly missed. Like college admissions advises, it's better to be passionate about a few things than stretched out among a lot. The problem was that I thought I was passionate about everything, but really I just felt like I needed to do everything. Maybe I had a bit of FOMO? 

Anyhow, when I found myself miserable, slightly overweight, lonely, and consistently annoyed with everyone and everything, I knew it was time to make a change. I was saying goodbye to an important part of my life, and I was entering a new one. If any time was a time to change, it was then. 

I made a promise to myself that this first year in Korea would be, if anything, a time of improvement. I was going to relax. I was going to stop planning for the future down to every last detail. I was going to say yes when I wanted to say no and binge watch TV. I was going to stop looking at the negatives, and I was going to stop using "stress," "too busy," and "PMSing" as excuses. I would stop getting my feelings hurt over what I perceived as people "forgetting" me or not being able to hang out. I would do more, ask for more, give more, and I would just give myself a break. Forgive myself for the things I said and did, be proud of what I've accomplished no matter how little or big, and just live.

I'm not saying it's as easy as a few yoga sessions or some mirror talk, and bada-boom-bada-bam, you're cured of taking insane pleasure in your even more insanely over-achieving life. It takes a lot of personal reminders and a lot of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and even your slight discomfort zone to get to a place of genuine happiness. It takes work. But the result, while slow, has so far been worth it. 

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