A Question of Personal Growth
“Do we ever truly change, or does the thought of knowing more than we did before serve as a placeholder for all of the problems we’re not yet ready to face?”
Blame it on social isolation, or the impending doom that I feel when I think about applying for jobs in the midst of this crisis, but i’ve found myself reflecting a lot as of late. It doesn’t really matter what it is I actually choose to reflect upon, be it new friendships or the loss of old ones, completed projects or neglected word docs, I always come to the same conclusion. I’ve changed, and by the very definition of the word, I’d like to think that this shift will help me navigate this uncertain time better than I would’ve the year before. But isn’t it just human nature to hope for these things? To manifest them into being, and will them to be true. For me, it isn’t a question of looking at my past self like the face of a stranger I recognise, but can’t quite seem to place. It’s a question of how, at the very core of my being, I’ve gone through various stages of personal growth without ever knowing what that truly means.
Life as a graduate hadn’t amounted to what I’d hoped it would, and I’d found myself overwhelmed by the idea of watching life pass me by. In many ways, being in Edinburgh felt like running away, and I’d never enjoyed running. Yet, somewhere along the way, I realised that I’d regret not entering the race. Fear of falling short of the finish line, of failing myself and those who had always believed in me, no longer justified the notion that I should hold myself back. So, I went despite everything telling me I shouldn’t go. And Sure enough, a few weeks after I’d arrived, I knew I’d never want to leave. Being in the city, surrounded by people from all around the world, made me want to live in the moment and let go of the past. And I needed to live and let go.
In truth, years of ‘coping’ with anxiety had left me with little coping mechanisms that actually worked. From the moment my counsellor suggested I watch the Shia Labeouf ‘Just Do It’ video aged nineteen, I had decided that I would never be quote on quote ‘normal.’ In many ways, I was too tired to try. For two years I’d been mentally distant from everyone I loved, and every step I’d made towards bettering myself was nearly always a bluff. Every day felt like a chore, something to endure rather than enjoy. My disordered eating ruled my life, and the more I gave in to it, the more I lost control. I didn’t know who I was, never mind who I wanted to be. So, I stalled. I made excuses as to why I didn’t want to eat lunch at uni. I took solace as the ‘writer’ in my friendship group, the one who wanted to publish a book. I pretended to be confident. I pretended I had it together. I pretended until I realised that the pretending had to stop. Then followed recovery.
I’ve believed in things happening for a reason. From having to buy a new prom dress because me and one of my best friends had accidentally purchased the same one, to just falling short of an internship that led me to apply for my MSc, I’ve accepted that the things we thought we wanted aren’t always meant to be. I just can’t seem to accept this. I don’t get the feeling that this crisis is happening for a reason, or that we’ll be all the better for it. I’m not grateful for the time to reflect, I’m bitter about the time lost. The future has always been uncertain. Life has never exactly gone to plan. But at least we were always under the illusion of control. And as a self confessed control freak, that’s the one thing I’ve never seemed to be able to let go.
Despite this, I think lockdown has made me realise how far I’ve come, as opposed to how far I still need to go. I used to believe that being self-critical was synonymous with personal growth. But I don’t think this is actually true anymore. We can recognise our mistakes and try to learn from them, but there’s nothing to be gained from only focusing on our flaws. All that does is waste time. And when this is over, I sure as hell won’t be wasting mine.
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