According to Law of Modern Women, Carrie Bradshaw once said this:
My fingers furiously typed away on my Galaxy Note II – furious, frantic text messages to Eldest Sis, the soul-sister. Frustrated, angry and thrown off-balance, I went on and on. For a long time, there was no reply.
Long minutes passed, before my phone finally buzzed.
“I can scarcely imagine what you go through day-to-day… But the higher up you get, the tougher it is. Sometimes we work so hard that we’re drained physically and mentally. Don’t let this happen to you.”
More frantic text messages – my side, of course – and once more, a long stretch of silence ensued.
Then the phone buzzed again.
“I think first and foremost, take a deep breath. Realize that this isn’t a competition you must win. You are there for the exposure and learning. Sometimes if we’re pressurized we can’t perform, no matter how good we are.”
The phone was silent for a split second, before buzzing for the last time.
“This isn’t some competition you must win,” she insisted.
The night of the emotional relapse, I dreamed I was home, but alone. My dream figment frantically circled the family home, in search of my family members but the house was stubbornly empty. When I woke up to the darkness of my studio, I was alone again. “Sometimes life just sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Rosie wrote, “and we deserve a little time to break down and sob those big fat ugly tears, and ignore the world for just a tiny bit.”
So yesterday, I finished my work early and dropped by the nearby shopping center. I took a walk. I bought a new sweater. I tried different kinds of cheese at the organic market. I bought a red velvet cupcake home, a small token, as if a pat on the back for having survived the first half of the first term – albeit not in one piece.
Tomorrow, I thought to myself, I’ll try again.
“Sometimes you have to just let the feelings be. I feel like we’re always told to look on the bright side and so when we feel like crap we start panicking – but sometimes it is what it is. Just recognize that you’re there with your own skill sets and your own things to bring to the table and just do the best you can. For me my faith in God is really the only thing I have sometimes when I have none in myself. The way I see it is God is bigger than all of this; when I feel completely broken and keep falling short, He’ll carry me home.”
My wise, wise old buddy.
“I just…” I responded, “I feel so ungodly, for feeling this way. I admit that honestly, that light at the end of the damn tunnel? I’m not seeing it. It’s frustrating.”
“It’s not ungodly. It’s just the human condition. What better time to grapple and struggle with all these than now? I know you’re not having a good time, and I’m not going to tell you to feel better. I’m going to tell you to hope and with that hope, do the best you can. Don’t look back, don’t dwell. If you need a reminder tomorrow, I can give you one. If you want me to say nothing, you just want to vent – we can do that, too.”
She fixed her gaze on me, her voice gentle. “Sometimes I think the reason it’s so difficult for new grad students is because you’re used to being the best, or the smartest where you were. Then you come in here and everyone’s as smart – if not smarter. Suddenly the playing field is equal and you’re thrown off of your equilibrium.”
She paused; I maintained the eye contact.
“Find your footing.”
He looked me directly in the eyes. “Make no mistakes about it – Stanford will consume you. It’s whether you’ll allow it to do so or rise above it. It’s your call.”
Mentally I thought, yessir.
Sometimes the best people in life are those you don’t seek, but like life’s many wonderful, undiscovered treasures – give you great joy and strength, once found. Sometimes comfort lies in the wisdom and words of strangers. Sometimes pregnant pauses and long stretches of silence give you more answers than spoken words. Sometimes the ones who truly, sincerely love you – like God’s many perfect timings – are there for you just at the nick of time.
Sometimes you need to realize exactly how broken you are, inside and out, to identify what needs to be fixed. Sometimes you need to be so far gone, so bewilderingly lost to realize that perhaps you just need to take the long way back. Sometimes… You need to be brave enough to admit out loud, “I’m not okay.”
At the moment, I’m in search of equilibrium.