I keep getting this sinking feeling, like I’m failing in life. Woah, drama queen (always). I’ve finished my Masters degree and since then I’ve felt like I’ve barely achieved anything, which is semi-ridiculous. I feel like a failure because I don’t have a “proper architecture job” or a drivers licence, I don’t blog enough and I don’t know how to knit and I don’t have any creative projects going on. Little overachiever, me. I’ve spent the past three months not only enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation, which is so well deserved, but I’ve also helped to pull off a live performance exhibition, completed and sent off an application to study a PhD in Architecture and have got my students whom I tutor through their first assignment, worked extra days at my retail job and have started a new eating, exercise and meditation regime to get healthy and happy #humblebrag. Like, come on. It’s OK to spend a couple of days watching Orphan Black and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on the sofa and not feel guilty, right?
I think there is an immense amount of pressure on young adults, whether from that inner voice in your head or from the outer world, to be superwoman (or superman). We’ve been told, as we grow up, that we can do anything we want. Anything is not enough anymore, everything is the new goal. But where does this pressure, or perceived pressure, to need to not only do anything, but to do everything as well come from?
For me I think it comes not only from external sources, like amazing YouTubers, Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling, but also from my Dad, the ultimate non-relaxer. The man who stands up to watch TV and books his car rental three months in advance. The smartest guy I know and one of the most well rounded. He works, looks after his family, is a good father, husband and friend, has hobbies, volunteers, cooks, cares for the garden and still has time to do his weekly crossword. Though, to be fair, he rarely socialises outside of the family, so I guess he has more time to focus on the things he can achieve alone or with my Mum. He also rarely relaxes, and is always doing something. A habit in life that I have picked up as well. YAY, ANXIETY!
When I was growing up, not only did my Dad put pressure on me to do well academically, his catch phrase being “if it’s not an Excellence grade, it’s a fail”, but he also put pressure on me to be a well-rounded person. At school I was to study a language, English, a maths subject, a science subject, an art subject. Outside of school I was to have a hobby, an instrument and a sport (generally being creative, the flute & football). I am so thankful to my Dad for his “well-rounded” formula because I have become an exceptionally well-rounded individual with an ability to communicate with almost anybody due to my wide reaching interests (LOL someone’s been writing her CV recently), but it has ingrained in me this sense of needing to be doing everything, all the time. I feel bad if I’m not achieving this formula and I find it terribly difficult to relax and acknowledge that I am doing well even if I am, because I can always do better and I can always be doing more.
Recently I have been encouraging myself to “just chill out and relax” (a catch phrase of one of my ex-boyfriends – side note: how annoying is it when someone tells you to “chill out” when you’re mad as hell?! Sorry, I don’t smoke as much weed as you, man, and for the record, I am not a relaxed person!!). I go to meditation class once a week, I meditate daily, when I watch TV or a movie I tell myself that it is OK, I watch the program the whole way through and I also try my best to put my phone away to enjoy some social media free time. I allow myself to be still and I flip relaxation into something to achieve, rather than something to feel guilty about. I am so much better off when I have this scheduled relaxation time than when I am busy all the time. Nobody actually thrives off being busy all the time, well, not forever. I think it’s something we tell ourselves to cope with pressure, but it’s far better to have balance than to not be able to have a moment to breathe. So, for those of you who struggle to sit still and who want to have a billion things going on at once, make a plan, get comfy on the sofa and watch a movie with your cat/bae. Nobody has success if they spread themselves too thin and you’re not going to get anywhere if you’re freaking out all the time. Make it a habit to relax. And enjoy it bb!
Maybe it’s a New Zealander thing, but I also feel bad if I am achieving things and don’t really want to tell anyone about my successes. I feel proud of myself but I’m not going to scream it from the rooftops, however I do worry that not acknowledging success is bad for the soul. Being an arrogant prick is also not good for the soul. Obvs. But there has to be some acknowledgement. If I get my students to clap every time someone presents their work in class, which is every single class, surely I can give myself at least some fairy claps for the things I do? (This legit happens, I teach students who are definitely adults and they love their crocodile, fairy and rocket claps #foreveryoung)
I think this has come about because I Googled myself (insert hands over eyes monkey emoji here). Hilarious. Judge away. I was so bloody proud of the things that came up; a photo of me and some intelligent ladies after presenting our research at Wellington Architecture week last year, my full page feature in the Victoria University Guide to Postgrad Study (cringe), a judges mention from a writing competition I entered. Like, girl. When future employers/potential boyfriends stalk you on the internet, they are going to be super impressed/freaking intimidated. Snaps for me.
And you know what, I am just going to go all out and brag about the awesome things I have achieved this past year because I want future Anneke to look back and recognise that she was an awesome young lady. Kiwis, look away!!
+ I created and wrote a thesis.
+ I handed in my thesis early, but not just early, first. First! Out of almost a hundred students! Damn right I am claiming that achievement. Competition is my middle name (even if I fail I am still going to brag about this).
+ I presented at Wellington Architecture Week as part of Women + Architecture New Zealand.
+ I traveled to Brisbane to present my research at the AAANZ annual international art conference.
+ I tutored over 100 students last year. And I remembered all of their names (I don’t now because I am a bad person, but it was an achievement at the time!)
+ I was featured for a university publication encouraging future students to come study at my university. Because apparently I am a role model.
+ I got a special judges mention for the Chartwell Trust Student Writing Competition. I got this mention even after writing my essay hungover AF. Not going to rest on my laurels or anything, but I think I’m pretty good at writing, especially after two hours sleep…
+ I beat the worst of my anxiety and depression.
+ I went back to Weight Watchers and I’m committed to lose weight and get healthy again.
+ I completed and submitted my PhD application. Let the waiting game begin!
I haven’t done it alone, although I fully own my achievements and the hard work I have put in, but I have had incredible encouragement and support through all my ventures, from my family, friends, super-boss, supervisors and beyond! And I feel so lucky to have such amazing support and to have people who have faith in me. My favourite type of people are those who see greatness in others and encourage it to come out, be it subtly or actively. I’m grateful that I am surrounded by people who have that profound quality. You guys are the best.
So, here’s to being proud of yourself. Here’s to accepting that we can’t do EVERYTHING and that is OK. Here’s to relaxing in bed binge watching GOT with your cat or human for company, because you SO deserve it. And here’s to being the best you can be, without worrying that you have to be the best of them all. Be proud my Kings and Queens, you’re doing beautifully.
What are you proud of today?