My biggest moment of learning this year was February 21, 2019, when I tore into pieces my resolution for the year. Weird, right? I know! Let me quickly walk you through the series of event, and what my thought-flow was that day.
10PM, December 31, 2018:
For the past two weeks, I had been working on my resolutions for the new year. Yeah, 2018 was a great year, but 2019 has to be greater. By the end of the year, I should have achieved this and that, attended such and such, be this and that, pattern my life after such and such; what glorious castle I had built in the air!
I quickly checked through for any additions (you rarely remove from such lists, right?). I had just scribbled down some more ‘to-dos’ before setting out for the new year eve’s crossover service. On my way, I had mentally scanned through my long list, things that needed to be achieved at a given time, and who I’d become by 2019 December. I had let out a big grin and smiled, yeah—I am good to go!
Customarily, I got to church full of joy, flaunting my amazing dentition to whoever cared to look and everyone else. For one, I was grateful for the year 2018. It was an indelible year. I had a great time in His Presence, and came back to my residence with such energy, fully ready for the new year.
Sadly however, I could not keep up with that pure bliss and joy I felt because there was a sickening drainage inside of me leaking that energy. Most times, it is easier to deal with external factors, and lessen, or out rightly put a halt to the negative impact they have on you. But it is more difficult when this negative factor is internal, it literally sucks all strength out of you, you feel drained, stressed, pressured… that feeling is horrible!
Reflective observation has always been my go-to technique for experiential learning, so I decided to reflect on the ‘Me’ I see - What has changed? Or better still, what is changing? Why? I reflected on the day I arrived at UBC, Vancouver’s Campus, and something struck me--- yes yes, I can see something. Is that it?
I arrived at the UBC Campus on August 1, 2018. It was a perfect day, the day one of my dreams was fulfilled. As I walked to Marine Drive and awaited the receptionist to give me the keys to the room that I will have the privilege to call mine for a period of twelve months, I gazed into the beautiful scenery around me, the trees and flowers blooming, the birds chirping away with no thought of what tomorrow holds, people laughing heartily as they enjoyed the warm glow of the summer afternoon, and the water fountain gently oozing from its source—huhnnnhnnnnhunn refreshing!
But my ecstasy was short-lived. I had just so much fun until I remembered the long list of people in my diary to impress with a stellar master’s degree performance. And there and then, I started having pent-up emotions and worries. I was anxious of what this strange place holds for me, and whether I would be able to succeed in this great citadel of learning.
Gradually, this thought metamorphosed into actions, as I could literally see fear in everything I did. I was pressured, so pressured.
In January 2019, I met with a counselor as she patiently listened to my long list of people I needed to impress. And then she asked me one simple question that totally changed my perspective – where is “You” on the list? I gazed into emptiness for some minutes trying to figure out the meaning of this question. And then she gently asked again, where is “you” on the list?
Seriously??? Are you kidding me right now? I do not have to be on that list. I am the one to impress all these people. The counselor smiled kindly, then she spoke in the calmest tone I had heard in months. Actually, you are not to live life with the sole aim of impressing anyone. I know, that right? I resisted the temptation to roll my eyes. Why is she going all preachy on me? I quickly chipped in my understanding on several books and TED Videos I had watched about self-criticism, self-esteem, self-worth and self compassion. Oh great!! I love you already, she said, please tell me briefly about self compassion. I explained with words of an amazing psychologist, Kristin Neff that I enjoy reading and listening to. She nodded and smiled, and then she calmly started a series of questions… these questions led me to the realization of why I have to be number one on my list of people to impress, if there is any need for such a list to start with. The questions led me to thinking about who I am, and what had changed…
I returned home to read through my diary once again. Nothing positive, just lists of “would be, could be and should be”, an endless rat race! I read through my resolutions for the year, which I had religiously followed each day as I diligently worked towards achieving all my set goals, and shook my head sadly. How meaningless!
I carefully tore it out of my diary, and gave it a final look, before tearing it to pieces. On a new page I wrote, “to be joyful, grateful and live each day to the fullest. To optimally utilize every opportunity that comes my way. To live fearlessly, laugh heartily, love wholeheartedly, and give cheerfully.” I love the me I see!