I’ve always been a perfectionist. This is why I struggled so much harder than I had to when I was in University – everything had to be perfect, including my knowledge of stuff and things. When I didn’t “get it”, or when I didn’t understand how to do it, it would literally feel like I was probably going to die… or at least that I’d rather be dead than suffer with the belief that I was stupid, slow, or incapable. I hear so much about “limiting beliefs” in the yoga and self-help community; about identifying them, overcoming them, and as a result, living your best life. I think the process of identifying my limiting beliefs is almost as hard as overcoming them, but reflecting back on my experience in University, I recognize quite a few that I would like to work with; most notably, the idea I just mentioned regarding my lack of confidence in believing I am capable of learning something new and challenging, and the accompanying belief that I am on my own and that nobody is there to help me.
I remember a particular university course that sent me over the edge. It was actually the course that made me decide to quit school altogether (for the time being); an introductory course to geography. I enrolled in this course because I thought I would learn about the lay of the land. I thought it might relate to the study of animals in the sense that I would learn about the different types of habitats and ecosystems that animals lived in, and the different parts of the world those habitats and ecosystems existed… but it wasn’t about those things at all. It was about, like… drones, and modern mapping technology, and how temperature works and stuff. There were mathematical equations, and questions involving physics, and all of this stuff I had never heard of before in my life. During every lecture, I didn’t even know how to take notes, this stuff was so over my head! I had been out of high school for over a decade at the time, and although I did do some high school upgrading a few years prior, I had only completed English and Social Studies for admission to the faculty of arts to study communication… I wasn’t mentally prepared for university-level science and math courses! So I’d be sitting at my desk with a hot tea in a travel mug sitting in front of me, my MacBook open, a new Microsoft Word document pulled up on the screen, that little cursor just blinking, taunting me to write something, anything… and I’d have my scarf wrapped around my entire face, and I would literally be hyperventilating, boiling hot tears running down my cheeks, choking back the urge to break down into a full-blown sobbing, blubbering mess. There was a mathematical equation on the overhead projector that related to… something I can’t even remember. And this prof kept saying, “This is easy you guys!!! This is simple highschool mathematics. This is so, so EASY!!!” …and I remember feeling resentment towards this guy for not taking into consideration that not everyone in that lecture theatre was fresh out of grade 12 diploma exams – that this might be very old knowledge for some of us.
The part that contributed to these limiting beliefs that were now creepy-crawling to the forefront of my consciousness were the students that actively engaged in the lecture, both answering and asking questions that gave me the impression these people were aspiring Geographers with nothing but geography on the brain. Every single time these people raised their hands or opened their mouths, I silently whispered “go and fuck yourself” under my big huge scarf, wishing they would just curb their enthusiasm for like a minute. It’s funny, though, because those few select people, maybe 2 or 3 out of a couple hundred, seemed to speak for the entire class; I mean, to me, at the time, I believed they represented everyone present, as if I was psychologically underdeveloped child in a room full of professional geographers at some kind of industry meeting overseas. I don’t know. But you know what I realize now? The other 98% of the class were most likely just as dumbfounded as I was, they just didn’t feel the urge to fall into a full-blown anxiety attack in a dark, isolated corner somewhere in the classroom, fully believing one hundred percent that the end was nigh. I don’t know what their secret was then, and I still don’t know what it is now. How did everyone else who was just as confused as I was not run for the hills in order to escape their impending doom over the course of the entire semester? How did they continue showing up, even if they didn’t understand a word? How did they make it to the end?
Those smarty-pants who wouldn’t shut up in class made me feel so inferior. They made me feel so genuinely stupid, unprepared, and under-qualified to even be a part of this particular student body. I was convinced it was a mistake that I was even able to successfully enroll myself to be a part of this class and learn this material. And then one day, three weeks into the semester, I snapped. I left the lecture hall and remember bumbling through the crowd on campus wondering why the fuck nobody else was kicking and screaming. The shit storm happening between my ears and inside my skull had the effect of physically debilitating my body to understand direction. I found myself in a random study cubicle, desperately researching the repercussions of withdrawing from all of my courses and going home to writhe in agony on the couch.
I wrote an e-mail to my geography prof. I told him that the material he was teaching was scaring the living fuck out of me. I let him know that I was a mature student, and that I hadn’t studied or practiced math or science in over a decade. I explained how I felt I didn’t have the necessary prerequisites to successfully complete the course, and asked for his advice. He wrote back shortly after, first to complement me on my writing skills, and second, to tell me to take a breath and calm down. I think he told me that I was taking everything way too seriously, and that I was absolutely capable of successfully completing the course. He told me the math and physics parts of his lectures roused panic in many other students, as well. He told me he would help me through it. But even after all of that reassurance, I was still convinced I wasn’t smart enough to make it out alive. I ended up withdrawing from all of my courses and driving to see a walk-in clinic that same day. I explained to some random doctor that I had recently weaned myself off of my antidepressants (which I had been on for almost as long as I had been out of high school), had just experienced a severe and prolonged anxiety attack on campus, and needed both a) a new prescription, and b) a doctor’s note explaining how the withdrawal from my studies was due to medical concerns so as to save my transcript and my rapport with the government student loans system. I was provided with both plus a prescription for some good ‘ol Ativan. Shortly after, I returned to the job that drove me to pursue post secondary education in the first place in order to find more meaning in, and passion for, what I was contributing to the world. Things went back to the way they were before.
And guess what? During what would have been finals week for that same semester, I was diagnosed with cancer, and the whole cancer “journey” brings me to today, right here, right now, recovering from a second, unexpected surgery. And so I have come to believe the following.
…anyway. Back to those complicated and sometimes elusive “limiting beliefs” of mine. During the course of my university studies, I full-on believed I was incapable of being a successful student. I fully believed that I was unable to complete anything at all. I believed I was stupid, I believed I couldn’t understand anything, and I believed I was alone. Nothing anybody said – professors, advisors, friends, family, my partner – could have convinced me otherwise. It was, and continues to be, all in my head – I know that these rock-solid beliefs are the result of my ego’s vice-like grip on my psyche. Of course, I am none of these things. Of course I am capable of being a successful student. Of course I am able to complete projects and assignments (and complete them well). Of course I can come to understand new things, and of course I’m not alone. The most ridiculous thing is, is that time and time again, when I did manage to make it through to the end of a paper I had to write or a presentation I had to prepare and deliver, I came out of it all with praise and A’s. I even had one TA and prof approach me for permission to use my paper as an example for future students. Even more baffling is when I came across an old essay I wrote for a women’s studies class – an essay I remember crying, and crying, and crying over – and thinking it was a rogue piece of academic research I had downloaded from the U of C library website and forgotten to delete… my jaw hit the floor and stayed there once I realized that I had created the thing. Although everyone in my life saw it with crystal clarity, I truly hadn’t realized what I was capable of creating while going through it… I was only capable of believing what I could not create. And that limiting belief put me through so much unnecessary grief. Every moment of my experience on campus was a continual mantra of “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” …and although that belief led me to (temporarily) give up in the end, I always came through with something I had no idea I had the capacity to create.
So, my point in writing any of this actually relates back to this blog. I’ve wanted to start, contribute to, and maintain a blog for a really long time, but I never knew where to begin (I still don’t), and I had so many doubts, concerns, and insecurities about having one (I still do). Most blogs I’ve seen have a theme, or a purpose, or are branded in a way that has some kind of continuity; you know, crafts, or entertainment, or food. Well my life’s one big fuckin’ mess. I’m still so confused about what my identity is – and from that stems my insecurity about what kind of knowledge I even have to offer the world. I’ve experienced so much in regards to the cancer experience, but in all honesty, I don’t want that to be a part of my identity. I don’t want to launch a cancer blog and create a community around people who have experienced what it’s like. I’m okay with being open and honest about what I’m going through, but I don’t want it to become my life – I do, eventually, want to let it go and put it behind me. I’m not inspired to write or talk about it over and over and over again. I am traumatized from everything I have experienced. and moving on from this is going to take me a lifetime. “Moving on” from cancer doesn’t necessarily mean bypassing, ignoring, or dismissing the life lessons learned from it all… I just can’t imagine logging onto WordPress every day to write about and discuss a topic that I one day hope to put far, far behind me.
And then there’s me as a piercer, which has just as much to do with me as a person as waiting tables to get through school does to someone else. I pierce so that I don’t have to wait tables. I don’t hate piercing, but it is so, so far from my soul calling that I sometimes get completely lost in the abyss.
So what else is there? Aside from what I do from work, and the fact that I’m currently going through the motions of having been diagnosed with cancer, what else defines my identity? What else do I even have enough knowledge about or experience with that would validate and support an entire blog dedicated to it? The only thing I can think of is my constant effort to develop and refine my identity in the first place – some kind of chronological documentation of the choices I make, the realizations I make, the experiences I have, and the things I learn as life goes on. You know, and in that sense, maybe I can capture a couple of things that could serve as proof of personal growth or change. Maybe my shit storm of a life, paired with my haphazard attempts to find a clearing, could inspire someone else, or at the very least, be publicly available for some form of entertainment. Or like, I don’t know. I just want to transparently share my life experience, no matter how erratic or random it might be. And you know what else I want to do? I want to publicly, and loudly, state my truth, and then fucking stand in it. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that in entirety quite yet – which is interesting, because I can fully recognize that holding certain things back makes it painfully obvious that I am dancing with fear. There are things I am struggling with that I fear if I was truthful about would negatively affect my life, which is so ironic because these things are the very things I know are negatively affecting my life to begin with. These things… are the very same things I want to write about overcoming, but I feel like I can’t write about them in the first place. What the eff? What’s the deal?
So where does this leave this blog? I think it leaves it as a work in progress. I think a super random collection of posts that have no theme, rhyme, or reason perfectly reflects my life at the moment. I’m all over the place. I have no solid identity, I haven’t found my passion (okay, I’m pretty sure I have, but I’ll write about that another time) – let’s just say I haven’t found a way to embody it. At the same time, though, I feel like I have several passions that aren’t really connected, which is part of my struggle. I am interested in just about as many things as I’m not interested in at all. And that makes it so difficult to start a blog with a theme. If this blog were to have a theme, it would simply be a collection of random experiences derived from certain choices I made for whatever reason, and stories of what I learned from them. Like… basically a diary of how I currently live my life, what I do and don’t like about it, and the ways in which I attempt to understand and cultivate an inspired, passionate way of living day-to-day.
So anyways. Here is where I’m at today.
I woke up at 7 am to Jonas coughing and retching and swallowing non-stop in my face (he essentially sleeps wrapped around my head like a scarf or something). I dislike days where I wake up to doggie problems. He’s asleep and snoring now, so I’ll just pretend that everything is fine until it isn’t.
I love getting the dogs’ food ready in the fridge before I go to bed. That way, I can feed them as quickly as possible in the morning, because they are rabid beasts when it comes to breakfast and suppertime. Jonas actually starts foaming at the mouth as he waits. While they’re eating, I pull back the kitchen window curtains for some light and open the kitchen door to the backyard, so that when they’re finished, they can waddle up the steps to go peepee poopoo. While they’re barking their asses off at nothing, waking up our entire block, I’m boiling water for coffee, I’m preparing my supplements and medication, and I’m writing a to-do list in my head.
Here’s what I wish my morning looked like instead. I wish I woke up at 5:30 or 6, because early mornings inspire the fuck outta me. I wish I fed the dogs and let them outside to terrorize the neighborhood even earlier. I wish I drank a tall glass of lemon water, and then I wish I lit a candle and sat down on a meditation cushion in my living room for twenty minutes, followed by a quick written reflection in my journal. Then, I wish I whisked up a steaming hot thermos of matcha, leashed up the dogs, and went for a long, cool, refreshing walk before the majority of the rest of the city got out of bed. Once I got home, I wish I worked out or went to yoga (neither of which I can do right now), showered, and got ready for the day. Boom. I wish, I wish, I wish.
My to-do list today includes things like cleaning the microwave and compiling a collection of clothing to drop off at a consignment store. Purging. Going through random items that are taking up space and really trying to understand why I’m holding onto it. Cleaning and organizing my nightmare of a second bedroom. Walking the dogs, doing the dishes, finishing laundry, reading my book, responding to e-mails and messages, watching Netflix, blah blah blah. There is a job opening at the Calgary Zoo for a zookeeper position. My Dad had put me in touch with a very important contact at the zoo who I had been in touch with regarding employment there, but at the time, there was nothing available. I might make a cup of tea and set that in motion later. What a day, what a day.
I’m off to see the wizard!
…I do not know why.
The last movie I watched:
…I have no fucking idea why. I don’t like these kinds of movies. I lost interest halfway through and started wandering around the house, but I’m still going to say I’ve seen it. And for some reason, I’ll probably still watch the other two.
Currently on my mind:
- Having this drain in my ass cheek removed and the ridiculous amount of discomfort I will be relieved from when it happens.
- Jonas and whatever it is about his throat that is bothering him.
- The green juice I made that is sitting nice and cold for me in a mason jar in the fridge.
- Where and how to find interesting and relevant podcasts to listen to and learn from.
- Beginning the process of upgrading my high school math and science through BVC, once again.
- Doing some old-person exercises and stretches in my living room later this afternoon.