Growing Pains

“I thought everything would get easier once I threw that cap up”

Lately, I’ve been growing through a less than a quarter life crisis (something that a lot of people my age probably liken to a mid life crisis). The country I’ve lived in my 20 years of life elected a candidate that built his campaign disliking me and various other people within America. There were numerous police shootings this summer which all seemed to follow the same sad story as Trayvon Martin, a story that I still feel connected to today. Phife Dawg, Prince, Muhammad Ali and many others who played a role in my development passed on. My father became and was ill a majority of the entire year. Ill to the point where I had to worry about if it would affect my education. I became a junior, which put me one step closer to a world I was still adjusting to and, this semester was hard. I’ve been a good student all of my life, but this semester was really the one that made me wonder if I had chosen the right path. Among all the other things that happened to me, I mention these instances because these are the ones that will stick with me.

During each of these episodes, I had to work myself back through what I was dealing with. During each of these episodes, I had to rely on my support groups. Dedication and love are what I want to center this piece around. Without the friends and professors who checked in on me, complimented me, listened to me, and just gave me space to be a person, I might not have made it. I always mention showing love to the people around you, but I never speak on accepting love. That is something I constantly wrestle with. It has always been a struggle for me to accept help, to believe that people are being honest with me, to feel like people truly care. So much so, that I’d rather suffer and get by than smoothly succeed with the aid of others. I also have to mention my dedication and the dedication of all the other people who had to push through those days that made them want to curl up in their bed. I see you, and I feel you. It’s ok that you’re indecisive. It’s ok that you mess up. What’s not ok, is to not try. I remember this one poster from my high school football locker room that said something along the lines of “it’s better to move forward one step a day than none at all”, and I keep that with me. When you’re out of your comfort zone it’s so easy to feel that the “situation” should adjust to you and not the other way around. But life is funny like that. You can’t always expect to have executive control. Even the best leaders, sometimes just have to follow. Sometimes the most comfortable followers, must eventually step up and lead.

Now, I want to talk about coping mechanisms and self care. I’ve noticed that a lot of people, myself included, use work as both a stressor and a relief agent. I want to make it known that this isn’t a way to truly sustain yourself. Every person no matter how extraordinary needs a breather, needs sleep, needs a hug, needs a day off. I chose “extraordinary” in particular to describe how a lot of individuals feel because the two focal points are “extra”, and “ordinary”. We have this over obsession with being exceptional, but I think it’s ok to just be ordinary at times. Sleep an ordinary extra hour or two on Sunday. Play a game of group Madden with your friends, look out your window as it rains. It’s ok to just exist at times. Of course, this is a two part deal as well. Just like how overworking can be dangerous, underworking can be too. Don’t limit yourself to what’s easy or what’s hard all the time, I think you should aim for somewhere around the middle. Dream and yet, also perceive what is already present.

Self care is something that I can’t stress enough. This semester in particular showed me that 1.) I already engage in some forms of self care and 2.) I could use some improvements. My relief is music and writing. I do poems, short stories, stream of consciousness or what ever comes to my mind when I’m putting pen to paper or a thumb to a keyboard. I also listen to music. Among the many albums I cycle through, the Suns Tirade by Isaiah Rashad kept me going. I also try to do things that make me happy before I do homework. That might be playing a game, watching a show or just “warming myself up” to the task at hand. I think it’s important to learn as much about yourself as possible and figure out what is you think you need to keep you going every day. It can be as extravagant or as simple as you think it needs to be. Walks around my college campuses are something I just recently found out can help calm me down. Washing my hair is another thing. Make sure you try to give enough time to yourself as you give to others. It took me a while to figure out who “I” am and I’m still learning. A lot of people my age are probably somewhere around that same area, and that’s ok.

We stress time management but forget that it’s not something to be manipulated. A habit that helps me is focusing on my work or assignments in steps. Rather than thinking about the five I need to do today, I try to segment each into a one to to hour window to finish it. That way, I feel less stressed. Studying with people or in a new environment also encourages me to stay focused. Perhaps to save face, perhaps just because they inspire me, but working with my friends and peers makes me want to succeed. I think that’s also something everybody needs to experience. It’s easy to sit on past accomplishments and assume everything will work out, but why take that chance? 2012, 2013 and 2014 may not be coming to save you, but you can. After all, each year you can only go up. I try to keep that in my mind and work within that zone. Sometimes, you just really need to do things differently than you once did. Life is more exciting like that anyway. If there’s one thing my friends and I have learned, it’s that the unexpected usually turns out to be the best. Which is why you have to be willing to step out of your box, triangle or whatever shape you deemed fit to encase yourself in. Be cool everybody ✌🏾

– Lebert Lester III

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