Student Life: Just Keep Swimming

Student Life: Just Keep Swimming

I will confess that much has been going, yet nothing at all has happened. Does that make any sense?

I started a new chapter of my life at the end of last year: university. I have always had a preconceived perception of university as being a wonderful experience. You know, the ‘best three years of my life’ kind of thing.

I have learnt the hard way that university life is not quite as glamorous as I intended it would be. That realisation has been hard to deal with. I have been challenged in so many different ways and, honestly, it has been exhausting.

One of my professors mentioned a quote in one of my first ever lectures at university, and it is one that I think of extensively, although perhaps not in the same context as he intended:

“A Fish Never Knows It is In Water.”

It is a lovely quote, right? He intended to convey that we are surrounded by the language, so fully immersed in it, that we do not truly appreciate the real significance of literature and language.

I will come back to this quote a little later. But first, I must explain the purpose of this blog post.

I have always been a high achiever. I would never like to be told that there was something that I could not do; I would have to do it just to prove that I could. I never liked being second best, and I definitely never liked losing.

Hold your thoughts! I am definitely not some crazed, competitive freak – I just have extremely high expectations of what I can achieve. Throughout my life, there have been so many things I have not been able to do because my health has not permitted it. It is devastating being told this, but even more devastating when people come to assume you cannot do certain things because of the way you are.

I always strive to be ‘perfect’ with whatever I endeavour to do because I feel like I always have something to prove, both to myself and to other people around me. I have never quite understood WHAT it is that I need to prove, but I always feel the obligation to strive for excellence in order to succeed in any way.

I took a big hit last year when one of my endeavours did not yield the results I intended. Suddenly, I really began to doubt quite a lot about myself because I wasn’t exactly that perception of ‘perfect’ that I created in my head. I realise that there never really is ‘perfect’, but I found that my confidence was shaken very deeply; I wasn’t good enough anymore.

I came to university feeling I didn’t really belong like I was an outsider in the place where I should ultimately have felt at home. I still feel like I don’t belong even though I am so very close to completing my first year. I have done exceptionally well here, surprisingly exceeded all my expectations.

But, despite my many successes here, I am still hounded by anxiety and fear: fear of failure. Sometimes, I become so consumed with performing well that I wonder whether I am really my own enemy, that I hold myself back from progressing because I am too afraid. However, I fear disappointment, both from the people that care so deeply for me and I don’t want to disappoint myself; I don’t want to be told there is something I was unsuccessful at doing.

I very much feel like that “fish” in water, constantly surrounded by these worries and anxieties and fears that I am unable to escape from, but ones which have become the norms for me. I set these very high expectations for myself because I must believe I have the capabilities. However, when I fall short of these expectations, I begin doubting and questioning myself profusely. Am I really good enough? Do I really deserve to be here? What if this is the best I can do?

I constantly prove myself wrong in this matter. I always match or even exceed, the expectations I set for myself. It is physically impossible to have everything perfect, and this is something I have come to realise (not that I am happy with this conclusion!).

These thoughts have plagued me for the entirety of this academic year, and I haven’t exactly been able to find the release I needed.

Before signing off, I would like to mention a song that was recommended to me quite a while ago that always reminds me of why I need to keep going and not to let my anxieties get the better of me: ‘Unstoppable’ by Sia.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post – or should I say reflective internal monologue?

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