feeeeeelings, Life

Personal Best

A belated New Year’s resolution post 

I took the GREs on Monday and they turned out exactly like I expected they would: my verbal score was nearly perfect, my math (excuse me, “quantitative reasoning”) score was absolute rubbish. It told me nothing that I didn’t already know but I was still disappointed.

It did force me to make a belated New Year’s resolution, one that has been rolling around in my brain for awhile but I have only recently been able to put into words. It’s pretty simple but it’s also really hard: stop comparing myself to everyone else. Or, maybe just do less comparing myself to other people, because I’m not sure I can go cold turkey.

I’m naturally competitive, in a way I truly think sometimes I have no control over. Play a board game with me and you will see what I mean. I know it’s a game. I know it doesn’t matter in the least, and if I were being my best self I could relax and enjoy it like a well-adjusted person.  But I want to win, badly, and I really, really hate losing. And I especially hate losing at things that don’t matter.

Case in point: the GRE. You will never convince me that standardized tests mean anything, in a global sense. I will agree with you that they’re meaningless, until you put me in that testing room for four hours and assign me two numbers. Then, of course, they’re My inner anarchist homeschooler-self and my type-A, all-nighter-pulling-self are always battling for dominance, one side whispering this doesn’t even matter let’s go paint something while the other shouts of course it does, how else do you know you’re worth anything?  

Being terrible at math makes me feel really, really stupid. It makes me feel like a freaking loser, actually. And I couldn’t even feel happy about my verbal score, which I don’t mind telling you was excellent, because I was so down about the math. (I should add here that I don’t even have graduate programs picked out, and I might very well end up applying to the sort of programs that could not care less about my quantitative reasoning skills. I was taking the GRE because I was scared of it and I wanted to get over that, and because apparently I like having the fact that I’m in the 28% percentile for math skills thrown in my face by a computer.)

That line, “Comparison is the thief of joy” is the realest thing ever glued to a refrigerator magnet and sold in the checkout at Barnes and Noble. I think about it pretty much every day. Comparing yourself with other people is guaranteed to make you feel like whatever you have isn’t enough, when really, whatever you have is most likely more than enough. Every day I spend walking around, healthy and alive and employed is a goddamn embarrassment of riches and I need to be a lot better about remembering that fact, day to day. The only thing I have to do this year is do better than I did last year. That’s it.

When I find myself taking many great things in my life for granted, it’s usually because I feel dumb or unaccomplished or just stuck: intellectually, professionally, whatever. And my New Years resolution is basically to snap out of it. It’s not about stopping anything, or about slowing down–the opposite, in fact.  It’s just about doing my best with my day and my work and my relationships, and at the end of the day remembering to remind myself that it actually was enough.

(Sorry this got a little Oprah-y for me. But hey, it’s 2015, let’s live all our Best Life ™ )

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3 thoughts on “Personal Best

  1. I love your candor, hard-won humility (it’s always a battle to retain that one, seeing as how its evil twin, prIde, loves to bash and belittle it) as well as your writing style, so bask in the glow of those accomplishments, as if my opinion means anything at all :-) No, my opinion of you doesn’t change who you are but who you are just helped me! It takes guts to look at oneself as you have done and admit with great humor and style that you struggle with something as revered in our culture as competitiveness.

    I especially love this passage: “Comparing yourself with other people is guaranteed to make you feel like whatever you have isn’t enough, when really, whatever you have is most likely more than enough. Every day I spend walking around, healthy and alive and employed is a goddamn embarrassment of riches and I need to be a lot better about remembering that fact, day to day. The only thing I have to do this year is do better than I did last year. That’s it.”

    Thank you for sharing what I need to hear!

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