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Down With the A Grades: I am Going to be the Right Kind of Selfish.

It’s been an interesting year. At this point, I’m not sure where to begin, and before anyone with good intentions tells me that “it’s best to start at the beginning, dear,” hear me out, because the beginning isn’t so easy to pick out. I suppose I could start with last April, but if I’ve got to jump all over a timeline, don’t start picking this apart like you would Slaughterhouse Five if you get confused, okay? Okay.
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About this time last year, I was convinced that I was stark, raving mad. Not because I’ve got a fantastic imagination– I believe everyone who writes is insane to an extent, but that’s a good kind of insane. This time, I was sure that there was something wrong with me. I’m not going to go into everything, because I haven’t quite come to terms with things yet, but to put it simply, I got sick. Not the kind of sick that you can sit in bed for a few hours on a Sunday and sleep through classes on a Monday and feel better, but the kind of sick that eats at you from the inside and since the outside is okay, then nobody knows anything is wrong until its too late.

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From the latter half of 2012, to the first four months of 2013, I suffered from something I didn’t even know I had. See, the beauty– and I mean beauty in the most sinister of ways– of mental illness is that it tricks you into thinking that the things going on in your head are your fault. You’re trapped, afraid to tell people that you need help for fear of judgement, hospitalization, the whole shebang, and so you’re stuck, until someone who’s got enough know how catches you with your guard down and convinces you that you’re OK, and that there are ways to fix what’s going on.

I got lucky. I’ve got a family that supports, loves, and knows me better than anyone on the planet, and eventually, I got the help that I needed. A year ago in May, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I began the journey towards being healthy. Let me tell you, kiddies, it ain’t as easy as it looks. There was a period after I began treatment where I did feel better. I started at a new school with a new outlook on life and a new plan to move forward with the things that I loved. Except, other stuff got in the way.

Ahh, the age old excuse. “Life got in the way.” It’s like you’re sixteen with stars in your eyes, ready to take on the world, and suddenly ten years pass and you’re working at an entry level office job with a degree you busted your butt for, hoping for a promotion and wondering why you didn’t pursue marine biology like you had hoped. And almost every person who asks this question to themselves comes up with an answer that directly translates to “life got in the way.”

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Old friend #1: “What ever happened to that detailing business you were going to set up?”

Old friend #2: “Ahh, man, I got offered this summer job at the firm, and they keep asking me back. It’s money, and a stable job, so why not? Besides, I have Dad’s old T-Bird in the garage; I’ll fiddle with it on my spare time. Next week, they’re thinking of moving me to head office.”

Dude, it would have saved you like, five breaths had you only said “life got in the way.”

As I was working on healing myself, without realizing it, I had fallen into the same old routine of working as hard as I could to get straight A’s, and nail all of the extra-curricular activities, working on massive projects because I had myself convinced that I was doing good things for people who deserved it. I’ve got OCD. I’m a perfectionist. If I don’t have all of the best grades, the best body, the best of myself, then I feel like a failure. It’s a messed up cycle of hope, trying to put too much on my plate to achieve my dreams, and then a full-on crash where I lose all energy and motivation and sit depressed for three weeks. Then the whole thing begins again. The sad thing about the cycle I’ve been in since I realized that good grades and involvement got you stickers and certificates, is that it draws me further and further away from the things that make me happy. I lose sight of me, tricked into thinking whatever I’m succeeding at is going to help me be happy and healthy and free.

I think I realized that something had to change after my adviser for Honours History told me my thesis topic was a one way ticket to Law School. Well wouldn’t you bet I took to the internet, had my mum buy me LSAT books (which I still do for fun, because, man, those brain puzzles are addicting), researched different programs and had my bearings set for a new adventure. Of course I had to tell everyone, and they were all so proud. Not to mention that this happened after I made the decision to stop writing for my school newspaper, something that gave me great joy, because I didn’t have enough time.

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That’s it. I’m done. I’m not even proud to say I pulled straight A’s this semester, yet again, and have a GPA of a 3.97. Why? For awhile it was because it wasn’t a 4.0. Is that not sick? Does that not make you want to slap me? If I were into violence, I’d totally give my ears a box. No, right now, I’m not proud of that because I finished out my year unhappy. I finished out my year lost, and unsure of where to go. So I turned to the only thing that I knew would make me happy and healthy. I turned to the bare-boned, base level of anything that has ever made my heart swell: my God, my writing, my books, my runs, and my want for adventure. The only thing that will make me happy is a day of sitting in my little sunny nook writing my stories and my poems and my scripts and my skits and scribbling out the tickles of my imagination until I’m empty for the day. Then, I would get up from my chair and making myself a meal of fruit, water and other cool, juicy, simple things that you can get at a store down the road. I’d go for a run to clear my head and drum up new ideas for the next day. I’d meet up with friends and laugh until my belly hurt, and then go home, read a book, pray and thank God for giving me another day, and then sleep so I could do it all again tomorrow. There will be curve balls, as there always are, but I’ll be able to take them on, because I’ll be on the right track, and when you’re on the right track, you’re motivated to take on things as they happen.

This summer, I can do these things. I’m still pushing myself to get up and start my day and do the things that I love. It’s hard, but I’m doing it. And then come September, I’m going to say no. To everything. To things that I don’t want to do. No more head of societies, no more tutoring sessions (though most likely I’ll keep doing those; I love watching people learn), no more staying up till three to finish a paper two weeks before it’s due. No more straight A’s. If I can pull off a year where I feel good about myself, where I sleep, where I have my disorder under control, where I write and read what I love and still manage to keep my grades, fantastic. If not, it’s not a big deal. I’d rather peace of mind and my imagination intact than letters of congratulations from the Dean.

I’m going to write for the newspaper. That’s it. I’m going to go for my runs, and take creative writing classes. I’m going to sing in the shower again. I’m going to like getting up at eight, just to see the sun. I’m going to fall in love with my degree, and eventually get a job that I love, without sacrificing my need to write. And I’m not going to law school. Then, I’m going to get published. I’m going to get published so much that I’m going to be able to quit that job and write for myself. I’ll write what makes me happy, and I’ll feed my family and I’ll love everyone and everything with the passion of a child, because even though this sounds way too pretty to be a plausible goal, it’s mine, and I’m going to get there because I owe it to my brain and my body to do something for them for once.

In a way, working myself sick for the wrong things is selfish. I think I was heading down a path I shouldn’t have been on because people told me I was good at it, and since I didn’t feel good about myself, I lived for praise like that. I told myself I was doing it for other people, but I think it was justification for something that made me feel less… gross. The high, however, is only temporary. It’s time to do the things I should have done all along.

Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I asked my friends what they would do with their lives if nothing stood in their way. The response was staggering. I know so many inspiring people; and I hope that someday, they will push life to the side of the road and start living. I hope that they get to do the things they told me they’d do, and I hope it makes them happy. Until then, I’m going to work on getting my happy back. And you know what? It’s going to be difficult, but it’s also going to be lovely.

I have my parents, my little sister, my loved ones and friends to thank for helping me get here.

So here’s to another April to April year mark. This one, I’d grade a C.

Let’s push for the only A that matters, shall we?

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Now that’s the kind of high I’m looking for.

 

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