I believe that there is no such thing as control.
Each morning as the unwelcome bleating of my alarm clock wrestles me back into this world, I decide to face each day anew. It’s not awesome; a lot of the time it feels like I’m just swimming upstream day, after day, after mind numbing day. Thus, I can’t always decide to be cheerful or excited, but it’s entirely possible to engender a feeling within myself that’s powerful enough to get going and confront the adventure that lies ahead. Motivation is half the struggle.
I used to be so motivated. Throughout high school, I was in every activity, on every committee, and I completed every assignment with alacrity and diligence. As you can guess, I passed up most attempts at a functioning social life. In my baggy sweatshirt, thick glasses, and enormous book bag, I was the world’s biggest loser, but at least I thought that I knew what I wanted. I wanted to go to a big-name, hot shot college and major in saving the world. I wanted to acquire all the knowledge there is. I wanted to show everyone that I could make it; that I could overcome my mediocrity.
It wasn’t until my senior year that I learned the meaning of the phrase “a shot in the dark”.
I applied to top-notch schools. The best. I deserved the best, after many years of dedication to academics and well-rounded interests. I was wrong. I got into four of the eight schools to which I applied, and the “best” of those was too expensive. I was a tired, over worked, depressed kid whose life goals and dreams had been vanquished over the course of a few months. It might have been the biggest pool of applicants ever, but that was no solace. I had worked my absolute hardest for my whole life, and I still couldn’t make it. I was worthless.
At least I thought so. But in all of my self pity, I stopped trying to control my situation. I stopped doing school work, stopped washing the dishes, and started to go out. I went to the park, out to dinner with friends, or just chilled with my brother at the mall. I started talking and cracking jokes. I stopped caring about my grades and what everyone thought, and did things because I wanted to — not because I felt I had to prove myself. I started to smile again; just to be alive.
Right now, I’m working a pretty intense gig at a theater for which I don’t get paid, but I like it all the same. When I’m not working, I go out most nights, even if the destination is undefined. I chase my dog around the yard, hang out in the sunshine, and play a lot of bass. I have a happening network of supportive friends, and I am even learning how to socialize. In the fall, I’m headed off to some totally obscure, funky, suburban liberal arts college, where I will flourish in a non-competitive and deliciously non-pretentious and liberal environment. For me, it’s not about the route, or the destination, or the means of travel. The flow will take you there: take a deep breath, relax, and jump in. The water’s fine.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.