I'm learning that I often sacrifice myself in order to live up to my perfectionist tendencies.
Sounds weird, right?
As much as I love this season, it wasn't that way at first.
I had a really hard, really overwhelming first semester that left me tired, confused, and lost. I didn't know why I'd come to grad school, how I was supposed to take care of myself, or if any of it was worth it.
Coming into this second semester, I wasn't sure if I'd finish this degree or if I did, how I'd be able to do it without completely losing who I am. I was miserable, really. I hid it well, held my head high and acted like I was okay. But when I walked into counseling every week, I quickly unloaded, going on and on about how miserable and exhausted I was. I knew something, maybe everything, had to change.
I've finally realized that the core reason it was so hard is because I'd lost myself amidst my own expectations. In order to show up to my two jobs and full school schedule, I sacrificed the aspects of my life that made me, well, me.
I was waking up earlier than ever, spent all of my time outside of work or class doing homework or, at least, thinking about the homework I needed to be doing. I turned into a zombie, robot version of myself, only doing what I had to do, only going where I had to go, completely disregarding my self care and health. It was awful, I was miserable, and I was scared. If this is what it meant to be in grad school, if this is what my life would look like for the next two years, I didn't want anything to do with it.
I knew that, moving forward, I had to make self care a priority. If I was going to stay in grad school, I couldn't let that happen again. If I couldn't be myself in this season, I was prepared to walk away. Because, to quote my favorite character on Downton Abbey, "I'll be no use to anyone if I can't be myself."
Thankfully, this semester has been better. School is still hard, but I'm a lot healthier and happier than I was four months ago. I've stopped trying to live up to my own unrealistic expectations and have allowed myself to simply do my best from day to day. I've found routine, self care, and boundaries that work for me, but are also flexible from day to day. It hasn't been easy and the truth is that my lifestyle strongly reflects that of someone twice my age, but I'm healthy, and I feel like myself, so that's okay.
Don't get me wrong, I still have my hard weeks where the healthy habits get pushed aside for a few days and I lose myself. It would be easy to paint a picture letting it seem like I have a perfectly structured life, but that's far from the truth. The chaos still gets the best of me, my perfectionist tendencies are unyielding, but I'm learning to let myself rest when those moments happen. I'm learning to take deep breaths. I don't want to get through this degree and be a shell of myself on the other side of it. It's not worth it.
I'm learning what it looks like to give myself room to struggle and fall in seasons of transition. Though I didn't believe it at the time, it's more than okay (even expected) that my first few months of grad school were hard. It's okay that I had to lose myself for a while in order to get to where I am now. Learning, sometimes, means failing too.