Be Ruthless

You know, I’ve been more than a little overwhelmed lately.

By lately, I don’t mean in the past few days, weeks, or even months. Over the past two years, I have thrown myself into developing a career I’m passionate about. I’ve blogged about feeling too busy, about craving rest, and the result is… That I’m busier than ever. Of course. Anyone who knows me could have predicted that, but in the fantasy world I inhabit, this is absolutely, positively reasonable. Of course it is. I’m one of those people who says “yes” to everything. Everything seems important.

I’ve officially applied to five medical schools and two MD/PhD programs. I’m completing my applications for two others. My semester looks as follows: a 360 hour internship, three paid jobs (two of which are very part time), two choirs, band rehearsals, a single course (what a relief), lab responsibilities, rock climbing, tutoring, seeing friends, my partner, my family. Everything seems important.

“You’re spread too thinly, Steph,” a friend says from her perch at the foot of my bed. I glance up from the forms I’m hastily filling in on my side table  (my desk is too full of papers to use) and give her a look just long enough to convey my acknowledgement of and sense of helplessness at this fact before returning to what I’m doing. I only half pay attention to her advice on cutting back on the unimportant. I know all this. Everything seems important.

My mother and I get along well usually, though lately we’ve been fighting more. “You’re never home anymore,” she says, which implies all of the following: You leave your stuff everywhere, we cook nice meals you don’t contribute to preparing or the cleaning-up of, you both come home and leave at strange hours, and we’d just like to see you from time to time. All totally valid points. I agree with her, then break down and cry because I can’t figure out a way to work this into my schedule. Everything seems important.

I walk to school and listen to podcasts on things like inspiration and productivity, trying to squeeze even more out of my time. I get to the lab and sit down to write, work effectively for an hour or two, then find myself drifting towards Facebook or Pinterest. I walk back home, listening to another podcast, frantically accomplish more homework, go teach a fitness class, meet a friend for yoga and coffee, try to write more for that paper I’ve been procrastinating on, then collapse into bed where I’m destined for another sleepless night, because everything seems important.

Being busy made me happy. I loved it. Past tense, because I’m still living this busy-ness, and it’s no longer bringing me joy. I think that the I may have confounded feeling validated and productive with happiness, because all of those things make me feel good. I no longer feel productive, because I’m doing too much and I can’t help but feel that my work is of sub-par quality at best. I simply can’t devote more of me to everything, which sucks because I want to. I’ve practiced and become quite effective at self-validation, and consequently no longer need an external source of it. This is wonderful in and of itself, but the loss of this facet of my daily activities has forced me to contemplate the “why” behind everything I do.

Which leads me to conclude, naturally, that everything seems important, but isn’t really.

My circumstances are what they are, and I’m making the best of them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in love with everything I do – I’m just not in love with the quantity of things I’m doing, not in love with my lack of focus in these. After this semester, I’m going to ruthlessly edit my life. I need to make my way back into a state of interior flow, instead of letting myself be dragged along through the current of everything happening outside of me. That’s a commitment to myself, to my work, to everyone around me. We all deserve better.

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