What would you think of a person who told you he finished a four-year degree in three-and-a-half years, with a cumulative 3.87 GPA, and was a candidate for valedictorian? What if I told you that he’d been editor of the literary review, copy-editor of the school paper, and tutored students (high school through Junior-level college) while taking a more-than-full course load and working part-time at the local video store?
Are you impressed?
I would be.
So why is it so hard for me to accept that I was actually successful in college?
Yeah, I know. I switched the pronoun to mask my identity. Sneaky, huh?
I know that college ended several years ago for me, but it’s the last time I think I was considered successful – even if I don’t think so.
You see, I have high expectations for myself. I know that I could have done better. I could have attended less parties, spent less time fooling around on the internet, hung out with less boys, spent more time on the essays and finishing all of the reading my English degree required, studied a little harder in the not-so-fun classes (I’m looking at you, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Science, and – of course – Math Reasoning).
I’m not saying I should have been one hundred percent focused on studies. I am a firm believer that the social aspect of college is also a valuable experience. I believe in it just as much now, as I did when I wrote a manifesto about it for the school paper my sophomore year.
I could have still had fulfilling “college life” experiences, while trying harder in class. I know I could have done it. But I got lazy. I accepted too many B’s, gave myself way too much slack.
These high expectations are coupled with a lackadaisical way of living. I have started putting off everything, always thinking “some day”, and never really going anywhere or doing anything.
I exist. But I do not really live.
I know a lot of my problems. I even have figured out possible solutions. I have put none of them in motion. I always have excuses.
I am getting in my own way.
Or, I am staying out of my way and, therefore, am doing nothing. I am standing on the sidelines when I could be in the game.
Except, I’m not sure how to get in the game. I feel I’m wearing the wrong equipment, went to the wrong practices, spent too much time making out with the cheerleaders–
I’m too hard on myself. I know that. But I also know that I’m not hard enough.
I exist on the sidelines, knowing that I could be better – do better – than I’ve done so far. My after-college life has not lived up to even half the expectations you would have for that person mentioned above. That person who was so successful in the eyes of so many people – in the eyes of the graduate’s parents, in the eyes of the graduate’s professor who so believed in her successes that she nominated her for valedictorian status – appears to have hit her peak in college and has done nothing in the interim years.
I am equally critical of my writing.
I know, we all are.
We are all of our own worst critics or some such, right?
When I read a book, or a blog, or a poem, I am not criticizing the author as much as I am criticizing myself.
If only I could write my background descriptions like her. His word choice is absolutely perfect. Look at his use of metaphor; why can’t I do that?
In essence, I am constantly thinking, “I should have been able to write that/write like that.”
I feel my own writing falls short.
I read the comments on this blog, on my fiction, and all I receive is praise.
I feel myself begging for constructive criticism.
It rarely comes.
And since there is no criticism, only happy This is great exclamations, I don’t feel people are being honest.
And while I write for myself, because it’s something I love and something I feel drawn to do, I also write for an audience. My dream is to be published, so of course I am writing for an audience. I am writing to entertain myself, but I am also writing to entertain you.
I have received praise on my writing. And yet, I can’t accept it. Because I know I could do better. I could be better.
I have received praise on my achievements in my education. And yet, I can’t accept it. Because, what I have I done since then? What have I done to make my professors, my parents, myself proud?
It’s like the successful college student who ends up working at McDonald’s.
He is grateful to have a job. And maybe it pays the bills. But he still knows, he fell flat.