Why I failed – thought spirals

I´m still in really big trouble, and I doubt I still have a chance to find a tutor for my paper in time. I cannot make myself try, though, either. Even thinking about finding a professor, writing him…makes me feel scared. I´m-an-intimidated-little-girl-with-authority-issues scared. Help-big-bad-obscure-bureaucracy scared. And also…help-I-will-really-not-make-it-this-time scared. Maybe this is worst of all. I will not make it.

But why does this frighten me so much? A vicious little voice in my head whispers that now I finally have to see I´m not as clever and in control as I thought I was, that now I have to see that all those  years when I did literally nothing for college I managed to get away with it, but now it all comes back to bite me in the ass; and that everybody told me so, but particularly Irene.

And I´m starting to understand what the problem is: That I have started to believe a lie I´ve been telling my family for years. The lie that I am in control and that the way I´m doing things is normal and alright. You see, my family has always held the opinion that I´m not working hard enough, that I´m not successful enough at college…and bloody hell do I just realize how this hurts! The thing is: In my last two years of high school I was “brilliant”. I was prepared for each lesson, I learned every day, I did nothing much beside work. And quite logically I graduated as the best of my year, with straight A´s. And suddenly everybody thought I was going to be brilliant later, too. They wanted me to get scholarships, think very well about what I was going to study, make good decisions and be successful.

But I didn´t feel like it. All of a sudden I was completely unable to learn. And I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I just enjoyed going out at night, getting drunk as hell (those were the days; I didn´t even get hangovers back then), and meeting my new girlfriend. It was as if I had been sucked into a completely different universe, as if I was a completely different person. And by now I realize why that was so.

It was so because I was done. Done with academic achievements, I mean. I had a splendid general knowledge about a wide variety of subjects, and I had just proven it. And this was always my ideal of a successful education. What had to follow was specialization; and I had no interest in specializing in any subject. A great strength and weakness of mine is that I can see how almost everything can be interesting in some way. So basically, I couldn´t make up my mind what to study. I like to know what things are all about, not the last little details. I want to know what questions philosophers, physicists, biologists and psychologists ask. I don´t need their answers (well, okay, I do need answers in physics and biology). The thing is, when it comes to humanities and social studies, I prefer to worry about the answers to the big questions on my own. When I read  what some theorist wrote, I most likely do it to learn about him, not to learn from him. That´s a great difference. There are very few people whose thoughts impress and excite me so much that I feel I really need their insights, almost on an emotional level.

Anyway. Let´s stay with my high school graduation for a moment. Now that I am able to see through this, it really, really hurts. Because what happened is this: By graduating from high school so successfully, I had fulfilled my need for academic success. My perfectionism in this area was satisfied. I was emotionally ready to move on to some other area, maybe something entirely different. I ache inside now as I imagine the routes I could have taken. I could have tried some arts school, or an acting school. I could have become a kindergarten teacher. Maybe I would have found a place where I belonged. Where I would  have found friends. I haven´t really made any friends at university, other than through my girlfriend. That doesn´t make them worth any less, but it shows just how alienated I am.

So why was I so stupid? Why was I stupid enough to pick a route I was not at all convinced of? Why did I start studying without even knowing what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do with it?

Because it was understood that I was going to study. I started to apply for scholarships even before the graduation ceremony. I simply didn´t get any time to think. Suddenly, everybody wanted a piece of me. Suddenly, everybody demanded that I should be successful. Nobody had given a fucking DAMN before!

To be honest, I am angry with the people who were around me during that time. Why didn´t anyone see my helplessness? Why can´t people see that even a person who is extremely successful at school might actually be unstable, insecure, impulsive and prone to mistakes in other areas? I always thought I see things in black and white, but in fact it is my family who does so. When I was depressed in tenth grade I was often very difficult at home, started fights and was both angry and clingy. Then my mother talked with some of my teachers, and they were “enthusiastic” about me. This resulted in my mother telling Irene that apparently I was putting on a huge show, either at school or (more likely) at home. So she really doesn´t get that people can be extremely paradoxical? Or maybe she should have worried why I was so difficult at home of all places, when I didn´t make any trouble anywhere else. But no, of course not. I was just putting on a show. Maybe this is why at some point I stopped wanting to be a good actor.

I feel like the (grown-up, accomplished) people around me failed me many, many times. Everybody expected that I was a mature person who was ready to pick a career. Some kind of success robot. Insert coin, press button, out comes a diploma. Just pick the subject you believe will make you most successful. And do it quickly, the deadlines are approaching.  And no mistakes: I was thinking of myself just like that. That´s precisely why I would have needed help so badly. That´s precisely why I would have needed some grown-up person I could trust; somebody who would sit down with me and tell me who I am and who I am not. Not in the sense that he´d define me. Rather in the sense that he´d un-define me. Someone to freeze time, lift my tunnel vision and help me take a look around. Someone without a personal agenda. Someone who sees how lost I really am (more lost than I knew or would ever have admitted) and helps me find my way, no matter how long it takes. Somebody who is not frustrated with my indecisiveness, insecurity and my tendency to reject everything and everyone. Well, dream on, huh?

The real tragedy about my high school graduation is that I felt this was an ending point; I was done, finished. Everybody else, though, suddenly woke up to the fact that I existed, and they decided this was the beginning of something, most likely of a great academic career.  Guess who won.

But why did they win? Because somewhere inside of me there sits this little perfectionist and counts imaginary trophies, prizes and academic titles. “Oh, all the things I could become!”, she thinks greedily. I get some kind of manic thoughts from this. I imagine one thing I could do, and this kicks off a whole cascade of ideas, possible wins, achievements-to-be in my head. And suddenly I don´t even know where to start and I wish I´d already done it all. And each time I´ve achieved something and a new option comes into sight, I think: “Just this one more thing, this one more time, then I´ll be really done and then…” Yeah, then what? Then there will be a terrible emptiness.

What I understand on a rational level, though, is that my ideal of trophy-hunting is not the opposite of emptiness. It is emptiness. Emptiness covered up by stress addiction. Hence the racing, manic thoughts that go with it. It is some kind of artificial excitement. And why do I need this so much? Because the bleak, depressing emptiness is already there.

This stress/success addiction is something that corrupts me. Even know it whispers in my ear: “So you have failed to apply this semester. But you can still do so next semester, and you will successfully graduate, and then you can stop trophy-hunting for good. Just this one more time, and then it is over! Just this once!” And on the one hand there is the familiar feeling of excitement, the mindless, manic “I´ll be perfect and then everything else will be perfect, too” delusion. On the other hand, though, I´m aching with apathy just thinking about having to go through the entire “will you please be my tutor” ass-kissing process again – for something that means fuck all to me. The emptiness, the depression, the hurt just grows.

And then I think: “But I can´t give it all up now. “It” would be sad.” Yes, really. This is a small child´s voice in my head. A pretty sad little child who feels sorry for giving up studying, because something (like, what? university? my studies?) would be hurt, then. I think I know what it is. My hopes for my studies, and my memories of that hope. Even my memories of my time at college. The time when I thought it would all work out. The time when I thought I was at home at college. Well, admittedly I never was. I just kinda squatted there, learning quite different things.

But this is important, really. I feel heartbroken over the wasted hopes. I feel like if only I could go back to a time about four years ago, everything could still turn out alright. The hopes could still be fulfilled. Well, which hopes? The hope of finally finding a home there? The hope of being loved? I don´t know. Let´s just add this little girl to the inner kindergarten.

It is because of this sad little feeling, though, that I know I will not be able to just leave college if I fail to apply during this term. And this scares me. If I feel too heartbroken over the lost hopes to give up something that is useless for me, I´m kinda stuck with it. With something that frustrates me, kills me, wastes my time. And so there is the urge again. “Quick, you can still somehow make it! You have to apply now, QUICK! Find some professor, beg on your knees, write about some stupid boring subject; just do whatever it takes!” And all this stuff that I´ve detailed here in over 1800 words are the thoughts that spiral around in my head. All the time.


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