A week ago I was feeling pretty meh.
Here’s some of the “strife” I was dealing with:
- I have a dissertation due soon.
- I don’t feel like working on it.
- I wish I had finished this sooner so I could spend more time writing other things (like this blog).
- Ugh the Fringe has started and I’m stuck in here writing.
- My landlady won’t let me have a puppy.
Whoa whoa whoa. Things could definitely be better, but things can also be a lot worse, obviously. Comparing my own struggles with actual serious ones, like homelessness or natural disasters or starvation, can only make me feel more down in guilt.
But what about some real world struggles in my own past? Last summer, my list looked like this:
- My visa and passport still haven’t come back, so…
- I might miss my college’s 700th anniversary ball.
- I might miss my birthday celebration, at the final production of The Drowned Man.
- I might not get to go to London with my family to see Monty Python.
- I might not get to the UK in time for my summer job.
I got to do none of these things.
As each event I was looking forward to slipped away, I was totally bummed out. But by the time I had lost everything, I realised that I only needed what mattered most: a passport allowing me to study in the UK and live with Monkey.
It sucks when your future is mostly out of your control.
There were only a few things I could do, so I did them: contact the border agency again and again, read other people’s stories to see if I could do anything else, contact my congressmen… I even considered driving to New York to go to the office in person. These were all shots in the dark, but I was doing everything I possibly could.
But it can also suck when your future IS in your control, because you are to blame.
This year, my problem was the opposite. Everything was up to me. I had to write my dissertation, print it out, hand it in, and I’d be done. I had no other obligations during the day. So when I didn’t meet my word count goal for the day, it was all my fault. No bureaucracy to blame. The next day I would bear the weight of that guilt, and doing my work would be all the harder.
Suddenly, my mind snapped back to this time last year: I was arriving at Heathrow, stamped through customs, on a long and somewhat gloomy English countryside walk
with Monkey to a snuggly pub, where I would happily open my summer reading in preparation for the course I have now just finished.
Hey, self, said I, You have so much to be grateful for.
Sometimes reminding myself to be grateful can feel guilty. But when I cut out all the whiney little details, and focus on what really matters, it’s pretty good.
I am forever a heroine-in-training, and I believe that you are too.
I am especially pleased to say that I have now finished my dissertation, I am back on the internet, about to see a Fringe show, and I saw several puppies this morning in the park. Cheers!