I had a plan.
I was ahead of it and I was going to take over the world.
I finished my Associates Degree before I graduated high school.
Yes, I had the super overachiever version of the Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree at seventeen. I was going to finish my Bachelors Degree in another two years, go straight to Masters and quite literally take over the world.
Somewhere along the line, though, things went a little Pinky and the Brain on my ass.
I fell apart and my plan failed.
Okay, so technically I decided on a different career path, decided to double major and double minor so I could do four years, and then ran myself over with a car and had to leave it all behind.
Do you know what it looks like when you’ve lost all the things that make up your overachiever identity? Go check out my progress pictures. The “before,” that’s what it looks like. A mess.
I wasn’t okay either physically or mentally. I spiraled.
A year and a half later, with all of my expectations for myself dashed to hell, I reemerged into the world. I did things one step, one day at a time. I had no thoughts to going back to school, going back on stage, going back to the world of socializing, or anything else. I had a job and that’s all I was doing for the moment.
Six months later I was ready to make changes again, to try again. I knew that I had to do it differently, though, that I couldn’t encumber myself once again with the expectations I once had. I was already a failure so no matter what I could exceed the expectations of others, I simply had to reduce the expectations I had for myself. I had to unlearn most of the behavior I had learned at school.
Since then I’ve been working on unlearning two particular lessons from school. The first is failure. In school you can get an F but I don’t think that there really is such thing as failure in real life. It only counts as failing if “can’t” is accompanied by “won’t.” For me, these two old friends shall never meet again. “Can’t” shall have to become well acquainted with “yet.” Just because I can’t do something now doesn’t mean I’ve failed.
There is, of course, “failure to stop” which will get you a hefty ticket if you do so in front of a cop but that’s beside the point. I haven’t gotten caught done that.
The point is that in any endeavor, just because you can’t do it yet, it doesn’t make you a failure. Even if you never can do it, still, perhaps it’s just an indication to go in another direction with things.
The second lesson was unlearning deadlines. How many people have you heard say things like “I want to lose 25lbs by my birthday?” I’ve said similar things many many times. In fact, one of my goals for 2010 was to lose 50-100lbs by the end of the year. I hit it and then regressed a bit and that’s totally fine with me. So I’ll be off by a few days in getting back to that range… is that really such a big deal? I don’t think so.
Sure, I won’t be at a healthy weight in any timely fashion but as long as I get there and stay there, I’m happy. As mentioned above, I’ve set far too many arbitrary deadlines for myself in life and letting go of those has been one of the major factors in my happiness.
So, these are the first two of the major lessons I’ve unlearned from school. What have you unlearned since entering “the real world?”