This is the Part 2 of a three-part mini series (read Part 1, about the past, here, and Part 3, about the present, here) that I decided to write because I'm finding that the concepts of past, present, and future are crucial in figuring out how I want to live my life. I thought I'd share my feelings on them; if you have any insights or thoughts of your own, feel free to leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you.
Welcome back to Wisdom Time with Rachel. I already wrote about my journey in figuring out how to deal with the past. Now, if you'll excuse the lack of chronological order, I'm going to go ahead and skip over the present for a moment and focus on the future.
In my post about the past, I started off by mentioning that I am a rather nostalgic person. So it makes sense to start this post off by mentioning that I am rather a perfectionist. And a control freak. And a tad neurotic.
It's funny, because growing up, I didn't realize that I possessed those personality traits. In my head, I was a carefree, happy-go-lucky pixie sprite with the soul of a butterfly and the spirit of a hummingbird. I imagined myself someday living out of a VW bus on a beach with my guitar-strumming surfer boyfriend, writing a whimsical, lyrical diary that would go on to become a best-selling book long after I had died. I believed that I had it in myself to be this girl, if only I could just figure out exactly how to chill out, get a tan without also getting skin cancer, and obtain the money to buy said VW bus.
Just in case you don't see where I'm going with it: that last part should have been my first clue that that girl is not, and never will be, me.
I didn't always used to be this type A. I think the tendencies were always there, but when I was younger, there weren't very many things I felt the need to control. I didn't need an income, I always knew what my next step was, and I wasn't worried about what I would do as an adult, because the movies told me I would be a cute, perky baker girl with a quirky best friend and a lovable man-child to briefly tame before we spent the rest of our lives together. Essentially, I had all of my ducks in a row.
The one area of my life in which my perfectionism always reared its anal retentive little head was in school. I was by no means a 4.0 student, but I was pretty damn close. Looking back, I think the only reason I didn't ever get to that GPA is that my perfectionism took over to the point of me being so afraid of failure - and maybe even success - that I always put in just under 100% effort, just enough to get those As and A-s, but not enough to actually suffer any real consequences. I know this because when I did get a B+, a B-, or, God forbid, a C (I will forever hate you, Arts & The City), I flipped my shit. I cried, I wallowed, and then I got pissed at the professor and the class and the world.
Moral of the story: I was not, and have never been okay with, anything being out of my control. If I was to get a bad grade, I wanted it to be on MY terms, not because I actually didn't study well enough or just didn't understand the material.
However, I never thought those tendencies in school would eventually translate to the rest of my life. But oh, oh, oh, translate they have, like Rosetta Stone on crack.
This is getting rather wordy. Picture break!
Do you see them? Do you see the snow-capped mountains in the distance?!
Pretty, yes? Moving on.
So, all of this brings us to the real meat-and-potatoes of this post: the present day. Except for one thing: for me, it's never the present day. It's always the day that is getting in the way of my future arriving on my doorstep.
When I was younger, my future was whatever paper was due next, or whichever school year was about to end. I knew it was coming, and even if I would have liked time to move a little faster so I could get to summer and not have to think about school for three months, I wasn't in any major rush.
Now, my future is completely open-ended. And not in the "what are we going to do this weekend, you guys?" way, but in the nothing is certain for the rest of my life except death way. I know what I want it to look like and what I want it to include, but there's no guarantee. There's no graduation ceremony on the horizon. I don't have any clear path laid out in front of me. What's a little control freak to do?
If you answered, "Constantly try to control every single unknown aspect of life until you're so anxious that you feel like your insides are burning with acid and you can't breathe, but don't try to release any of that (admittedly imaginary) control, because if you do, the world will go up in flames and all your worst fears will come true and chaos will reign supreme", congratulations! You are correct. Your prize: my respect, because you really get me. Let's be friends.
And that is how I have been living my life ever since...oh, about three weeks before the end of my study abroad trip in Costa Rica. Because that's when I knew shit was about to get real. I was done with college, I'd have to find a job, and I'd also have to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Cue the stomach cramps and heart palpitations.
Without really having time to react, I let anxiety take over my life. My solution was to alternate between flailing and grasping at some semblance of control and wallowing in despair and self-pity. It wasn't pretty. It took me making a big change in my life (moving to California) to cut down on a good chunk of my mental insanity (because at least I was doing something), but it has by no means disappeared.
One thing that has calmed me a bit since arriving in LA has been this: I finally figured out what I want to do with my life, and I voiced it. I want to be a writer and a photographer. There, I said it again! I'm so liberated and free, y'all. Next stop, VW bus and the beach.
But not even that has been enough. With those declarations came a slew of new insecurities and self-doubts. Why can't I just be published, already? Why can't everyone just see me for the genius I am? Why can't I just skip to my mid-thirties when I will obviously have it all figured out? I so badly want to control an outcome that is possibly years upon years away that I am neglecting the one thing I actually can control: the here and now. The present.
And that is where I leave you for now, dear readers. I realize this is an abrupt and not at all satisfactory conclusion, but a) this post got long, and b) in order to find a resolution to this problem, the present needs to be addressed, and that's going to happen in Part 3. I know, I know, how will you survive until my next post? Stay strong.