What's The Right Pace For Me? I am turning twenty-two in a couple of months. Many might think that I am currently focused on my academic career, figuring out my profession, maybe starting an internship soon. Others might say that I am at the youthful age to travel around, to meet as many people as I can, to take risks while the freedom lasts (whatever that means). But truth be told, I have spent a generous chunk of my late teens and early twenties being in therapy, resting, crying, feeling all sorts of intense emotions, and digging up past traumas.
I agree that I won’t be as adaptive or healthy enough to recover from the all-nighters, the crazy hangovers, or nights crammed into a ten-person hostel room. I also agree that once I have the financial responsibility towards myself and possible future family, I won't have the freedom we have in my early twenties.
But what sits wrong with me is charging towards risks and challenges (specifically that which is taxing to our current state) when my mind and body are clearly telling me to slow down. Is it healthy to pour every ounce of my time and energy pursuing my career or saying 'yes' to every opportunity when I am depressed or anxious? At a certain point, I think it brews toxicity.
For me, it certainly led me to a life of dissociation.
Friends and family members had high expectations for me going into university and pursuing my career. In highschool, they saw external achievements and assumed that I had everything together. But, in reality, I was absolutely miserable. I remember the countless nights I would cry myself to sleep and the gaping emptiness and sadness I felt most of the time.
When I moved to a different culture in university, all my past traumas and negative narrative crashed down. I hit a major identity crisis, sank into deep depression, struggled with eating disorders and anxiety. I had no space nor energy to even think about my studies. Many days, I couldn't get myself out of bed. I beat myself up for not being able to go to lectures, not being able to focus on my material, for not doing as much as I could have.
Letting go of that idea that I had to finish my bachelor’s in one go, that I had to still have my career life perfectly planned out was and is still a difficult one. It’s hard when everyone around you is already starting their masters, their internships, their jobs, moving on with life. It’s hard when the only thing you sought self-worth in was through those external achievements.
But, personally, I don’t want to waste my twenties chasing something that I can’t even fully put my mind and energy into. I would rather drop a few things, let go of a few things so I can at least focus on a few things properly. Even if that means less studying, or taking a gap year, I would rather be present in the moment brewing my morning coffee or going out on a nice walk than have my nervous system overloaded with cortisol most days of the year. I realize that right now I am using most of my energy digging through my childhood trauma and changing the negative mindset and thought patterns I’ve had for more than half of my life. And I realize that there’s no set timeline to my journey. I also realize that addressing these issues earlier would help me live a life in-line with my needs and my values.
Whatever things you may be going through, a mental health disorder (or disorders), family problems, trauma symptoms, maybe it's more than okay to step away from some pressures. Maybe it's more than okay to say no to that extra position or extra responsibility. Maybe it's more than okay to take more rest time for yourself, more days to be still in nature or days to release your suppressed emotions.
If there is anything I have taken away from these last years, it's that emotional work is extremely taxing, sometimes more than any other external responsibilities. It drains you. So, it's okay to give yourself credit for all the work you have been putting into yourself and your health/mental health. We all have our own pace and story. Maybe it's more than okay to own yourself up to it.
· Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal -Jeanette Winterson (autobiography of an adoptee growing up in harsh environment yet have strong resiliency)
· Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents -Lindsay C. Gibson (gave me a lot of insight into growing under emotionally neglectful/immature parents)