No

“No,”

I kept whispering to myself, steadily rocking my head back and forth while my eyes stayed glued to the computer screen, scanning the notes for my Celtic mythology class.

Like the roots of a huge tree, my anxiety steadily sucked the nutrients out from all around me. My friends, my grades, my family, myself.

Myself.

What I have I done to myself? I thought. I continued to robotically rock my head back and forth. The word sounded so clear to me at first. But with each formation, the word “no” began to transform into something foreign.

My mind had begged to hear the word, again and again, in order to gain the comfort of familiarity and to validate my doubts regarding my potential for doing well this quarter. But what I got instead was the opposite.

“No” was becoming an alien dialect to me. “No” was beginning to become useless.

“No” had told me the beginning of this quarter that I wouldn’t be able to do as well in my classes as I did last quarter. “No” told me I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my personal goals, like working out and reading for fun. “No” had told me I would reach out for it in my time of desperation because it knew I would start to believe I’m not worth it, that I’m stupid.

And “No” was correct.

The only way I could feel better wasn’t to listen to words of encouragement from friends or family, but to listen to the thing that only brought me down even more. I was in a slump. None of my classes interested me. The assignments I completed had no passion. And yet I wanted to do my best. I abandoned gym time and neglected my self-care. But my sacrifices weren’t yielding sacrifice-worthy results.

So I did what “No” told me to do. I started to tell myself “no.” “No, I will not do as well as I did last quarter.” “No, you are not going to feel good about going to class.” “No, you can’t do it.”

But in that moment, as I rocked my head back and forth, eyes glued to my computer screen, the repetition of “no” disappeared. All I heard now was my voice creating a sound that resembled “no.” This sound had no meaning, no negative feelings associated with the former. And it started to ease my mind. My focus now shifted from what “No” was telling me to do to the strength of my voice as I created the sound. And that’s when I knew “No” would never overcome who I really am, because I knew I was stronger.

“No” was gone.

And that’s when I realized that how I do this quarter, good or bad, will just be a faded memory when I am older. I might care now. I might define this quarter as “no,” but in time, this quarter’s “no” will be just a meaningless sound.

It doesn’t really matter. My future does not rest in the performance of this quarter.

So goodbye, “No.” You don’t matter to me. What matters to me instead is who I am, uninterrupted by your objective to make me feel worse. Who I am is an individual who will continue to push through when times are tough and trying. And, whenever I have the urge to run back to you, I know you’ll become lost again in the strength of my voice.

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