365 Days of Being My Own Worst Critic
It’s been almost a year to the day that I walked across that stage, shook hands with a bunch of university higher ups, followed by six to eight weeks of waiting for that thick, expensive piece of paper proving I did actually earn a degree; it wasn’t all some strange, sleep deprivation dream.
“So what are you doing now?” they ask innocently, not understanding the onslaught of fear and frustration that question brings with it.
I have the same job I had before I graduated college, and while it doesn’t leave me satisfied career wise, it does pay those bills. So I’ve spent my first year outside academia learning to be okay with that. For now. It’s been no simple task, especially when I notoriously push myself too hard to ridiculous goals that I know are out of reach at the moment, but yet I expect them of myself anyway. I came out of college as the worst kind of critic: a perfectionist.
My dad used to say I was the only person he knew that could make yardwork a sit down job. Until about halfway through college, I was lazy. I was driven by absolutely nothing and had no work ethic to speak of. The only thing that was hard for me in high school was complying with the dress code. So like many others, college was a bit of a wake up call. I couldn’t just breeze by anymore, and that took a while to set in. After doing horrendously my first two years of school, it dawned on me that I needed to get my ass in gear. I couldn’t just scrape by; I needed to be the best. I needed to excel in every possible way in life so no one could say I was doing nothing and going nowhere.
My expectations of myself only widened after I graduated. Why wasn’t I job searching in every spare moment I had? Why wasn’t I one of the 3% of my social circle that had landed that “adult” job immediately after graduation? What had I missed? I seesawed between applying for every job that sounded remotely okay and researching different grad school programs, because at least then, I could say I was trying.
It was then that I realized the only person I feared disappointing was myself. I was criticizing myself at every turn and decision I made, and it wasn’t driving me to success, it was just making me angry. I spent everyday looking at jobs that I was either overqualified for or jobs I was nowhere near qualified for. It all seemed suddenly for naught. I didn’t actually want those jobs. I didn’t actually want to move across the country and leave the life I’d created for myself just for a job title that wasn’t “waitress.”
This year has been about finding balance: balance between the healthy amounts of motivation versus constantly putting myself down for “not doing enough.” Just because I’m not quite where I want to be with just a year out of school under my belt doesn’t mean I’ve permanently missed the mark and will never get there. There is no invisible clock ticking down until I can’t find that dream job anymore, so why should I rush into it? It’ll still be there, waiting for me, while I discover the rest of what the world has to offer.