Realigning Expectations With Reality

The purpose of this post is for me to honestly reflect on myself when everything around me seems to be moving too quickly. Plus, I heard writing is a great way to let go of the things that have been bothering me.

Facing Reality

“Nobody is perfect” -Wilt Chamberlain

I have heard this common phrase numerous times yet I never thought it would bother or be applied to me in my never-ending quest to achieve one title or status after the other. As an immigrant with an academic background in the family, I have many ambitions that I want to accomplish because I want to repay my parents for their courage to sacrifice everything they had earned through hard work and restart all over again for their children’s future.

Until now, whenever I face an obstacle in my life, I would continue to push myself until I succeed to a higher level of difficulty and I repeat. I thought mindless persistence and the mentality of “just keep swimming” will solve all my problems, but I was wrong. I felt as if I was always carrying a big invisible boulder on my back since the start of middle school. These ambitions dictate my life while my mental health was deteriorating without me realizing it because I thought happiness was an emotion that must be sacrificed to rise above my peers. Straightforwardly, I believe I’m holding on to too many of the expectations that were created by me, my parents, and the people around me. I also believe that I don’t have the habits nor the work ethic to create the academic endurance that will back up the increasing expectations that continuously grow as I get older or have a way to release all the stress that I keep inside. In short, I am a mess and if I want to continue advancing in my education and thrive in the adult world, I have to realize my problems and seek ways to solve them. My ambitions cannot become my reality without self-preparation, discipline, and support from my friends and family.

Fixing the Easy Stuff

“While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.” -Matt Bevin

Reflecting upon myself is what has led me to realize that I cannot continue down this slippery slope, but it also helped me figure out what I need to focus on improving. What makes this part “the easy stuff” is that I have control over these small parts of my life. However, “the easy stuff” is not as easy as it seems since it requires self-discipline and restraint, or else the changes would be short-lived and old habits will resurface sooner or later. However, the effects of accomplishing the small details in your life are to say extraordinary.

I first recognized that my environment is 100% not fit for studying as my “table” is unorganized and most of the time there is barely space for me to place my Chromebook to work. I will shamefully admit that I have a habit of studying in my bed and I know for a fact that is not how a scholarly student should be studying. As a result, I have cleaned my table and organized my school-related objects to give myself a workplace that is fit for work. I will only give myself the luxury to lay in bed to enjoy a forgotten hobby of mine: reading books (fortunately I will have plenty of opportunity to read for fun this year).

Not to mention, my phone is a major distraction in my daily life and it has caused my attention span to shrink while I am studying. But more seriously, I realized it has become a coping mechanism for me when I feel stressed out as I just want to escape to the world of quick and easy entertainment. I can solve these problems by simply asking a family member to keep my phone while I need to focus and encourage myself to release my daily stress on the piano. This will make playing the piano, a source of entertainment and not another stress factor.

My mental and physical health are both important in the long run for my education as well, meaning I should be aware of exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. To start, I am getting plenty of exercise this year when I joined the swim team, and honestly, I feel a tinge of regret for not joining sooner. By sacrificing a few hours a day for the sport, I am rewarded with rediscovering my love for swimming and making new friends who share the same interest. On a similar note, exercising has increased my appetite and I started to become aware of what food I am eating so that I stay in a healthy shape for competitive swimming. Finally, managing my sleep hours has proven to be a difficult task as it is partially linked to my procrastination when I get home from school and it has caused me to sometimes stay up past midnight. Hopefully, through a more encouraging study environment, as well as, limited interaction with my phone, I will complete my work effectively.

Reinventing Myself

“Not only does it take courage to pave your own path to success… it’s also a lot harder than following the painful, stressful, well-trodden one that every other high-achiever is following.”

After I completed the easy stuff, I will feel my self-confidence rise and my school days become a bit more bearable, but to be brutally honest, I am still in the cycle of being another overachieving student who wants to attend “a really good college” after high school without any clue of what I want to pursue afterward. This mindless lifestyle is very supported in our modern world as society encourages students and coworkers to compete with one another to be number one. Yet the measurement that defines your success are grades/GPA and later in life, your salary which are very weak indicators of who you actually are and what you are capable of.

In my case, I am also partially affected by my parents’ past as both of them came from poor families in Vietnam, but through sheer determination to improve their social positions in society, they achieved high academic achievements despite the economic disadvantage. This story initially influenced my strong academic drive, except as a teenager I recognize the same methods that worked decades ago for my parents would not be effective in my present day. Being an overachiever in the modern age only leads to stress, burnout, and a fear of failure in the long run as our life has already become much more complicated than in the past. Recently, I read an article named “APs Make You look Complacent, Not Curious.” written by a Standford Admission counselor that made me acknowledge the shocking yet obvious truth: I’m just good at following the academic path that is already laid out by the overachievers before me. Colleges are no longer looking for people who are good at following directions, instead, they are looking for people with a real passion who aren’t scared to pursue their interests and be pioneers in their respective majors. The courage that is required of students today is not the same as it was for my parent’s generation to rise above economic poverty, rather it is about having the courage to split from the path of the majority and pave their own. As for myself, I only started to think about what my passion is for my future. However, I am positive that I will be able to find my true calling by sticking to my mantra and using my high school years to explore and spend time developing and finding new hobbies.

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