I’m pretty overwhelmed. It’s nothing new. That’s pretty much my constant state. My honest answer to “how’s it going” is, most realistically, “stressed.” I don’t know why I do this to myself. I don’t mean to be this way. I like saying yes and helping out and being responsible. But sometimes, I take it a little too far. I don’t know when to stop. I don’t know when to take care of myself. I don’t know what I’m doing.
I’ve been working on a pretty big project that has left me feeling in many ways dejected. I have been wrapped in this constant feeling of falling short. To put it frankly – I’m not sure I’ve ever failed on this large of a scale in my entire life.
And that’s an awful feeling.
I explained it to a friend: You know how that one time you had a really big test and you didn’t really study for it and you didn’t really understand the information because you weren’t really paying attention in class? And do you remember that sinking feeling of looking at the first question and then the second and third and realizing you had no idea what to do? Do you remember never wanting to feel that way again? Think about it: the feeling of having no idea where to even begin or what you to do and just feeling completely helpless? That’s what this feels like – except constantly.
I sat down to work on an old piece of writing when I saw another document that I hadn’t opened since April. I clicked on it cautiously.
It was a letter I had written to myself months prior, at the moment I realized I was in over my head. The opening paragraph taunted me:
“I walked down the steps to the subway muttering, “bite off more than you can chew and then keep chewing”
I kept reading, rolling my eyes at the optimism of my four-month younger self. I kept reading:
“I know that as I sit typing this at 5:13 pm on Saturday, April 29th, I feel a little overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve bitten off a little more than I can chew. But I also know that I would rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.”
How dare past tense Liz use her favorite tag lines against herself? And then I got to the last part. Just before my classic “Love always” sign off, I did the most in-character thing I have ever done. I typed this:
Dear future-Liz, this is the pep talk you know you’ll need. Save this document. Print it and tape it to your door if you have to. But you can do this. You can do this. You can do this. Moreover, you have to do this. Because if you don’t, who will?
I read those lines over and over again.
I don’t believe in myself right now. I haven’t for a long time. But four months ago, I did. Four months ago, I stared at this same screen and I sat at this same desk and I told myself over and over again that I could do this. Four months ago, I truly believed I could.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time recently mulling over the emotional baggage of being the unprepared test taker. I’ve spent quite a lot of time recently beating myself up over things that are already done and things that are beyond my control. I’ve spent quite a lot of time wrestling with the guilt of letting people down.
As I sit here right now, I only have what’s in front of me. I can continue to waste my time angry at things that should have been handled differently or upset that I didn’t have the foresight to take better charge of my priorities and projects.
Or, I can acknowledge that I need to study harder for the next test. I can cut the ties and let the next test start right now. I can clean slate and begin again today.
Four months ago, I told myself I could do it.
Tired and struggling, I’m rereading my letter now. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
Wasted time is less than ideal. Brooding over wasted time is even worse. Let’s flip the script. Let’s read the pep talk.
There’s still a part of you that believes in you. Find that. And begin.