The pressure to succeed is something that cannot really be comprehended or explained in a verbal explanation. I believe that, essentially, we travel through life – flitting from place to place and flitting from pressure to pressure. It is arguably something you just can’t get away from. A verbal explanation of personal pressure cannot equate to the correct (and often lengthy) extent to which the pressure ensues.
I’ve never truly thought about my difficulty from straying from the workaholic lifestyle. I dedicate myself to striving towards my personal, and mostly academic, goals and I do whatever it takes to achieve said goals. But, when I sat myself down and proceeded to watch Damien Chazelle’s powerfully intense film, Whiplash, I found myself engrossed in thought of just what the pressure to succeed has done to me.
Take this particular scene, for example. The students drive themselves to the point of physical harm to reach that ever-so-slightly-out-of-reach goal whilst the teacher attempts to enthuse his passion, his need for perfection, for them (and himself) to succeed.
In late 2014, three years after being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue syndrome, I made the decision to return to the world of academia. In the three years prior, I had a great amount of time to soul search whilst I adjusted to my new life with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In that time, I wrote three books, began this blog, and decided my future career was within the education system. I didn't want to have a singular career as a writer, I also saw myself as a budding teacher.
So, I began slow and steady as a part-time student and, with a few relapses, I survived. Having survived, I took the leap to become a full-time student this year; only I wasn't quite prepare to be put under the overwhelming pressure that I was - not just by faculty but by myself.
One of the most difficult hurdles of life with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is accepting that you cannot always remain at the pace that everyone else is at and, whats more, speed ahead from that pace. As a student and a training teacher, I am out under an incredible and exceeding amount of stress and pressure. There is always that one step higher than the one I find my feet stood upon. Always that one grade better than the grade I find my work upon. Always someone with much more health than I, with multiple disabilities, does not.
At the beginning of the year, I chose a reclusive student lifestyle in order to focus on my education because, in essence, I truly want to achieve to the utmost best of my ability in order to attain and move onto the paths that I envision myself upon. However, as the year progressed, I found that need to succeed in academia was taking over my life. It was affecting me. It has almost obliterated my ability to have a social life. It had left me returning home and forcing myself to continue working until I only had a few hours before I must return to working. It had induced a series of submerging into unconsciousness because I was so tired. It did affect my already tender health.
You can't ignore the fact that, yes, you are ill and significantly debilitated. I've never been able to understand this until it's too late and I found myself extremely ill. The thing about being ill is that you want to feel just as capable as everyone else, you want to go the speed they are travelling at in their studies and with this desire comes a great deal of pressure because I came to realize that I physically couldn't maintain that same pace without either my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia reacting viciously and yet, I kept pushing myself anyway.
It isn't to say that you shouldn't push yourself. What I have learnt from this year is that you need to take your limits into consideration and push them far less ferociously. What I've learnt from this year is that you need to find your own, individual, and comfortable pace. What I've learnt from this year is that it is good to put yourself under some pressure in order to reach goals, deadlines, and so forth but you shouldn't put yourself under such pressure to the extent that you become ill and emotionally unstable.
But I was very lucky this year.
Despite the trials of social conformity, the upset from not achieving the goal I'd set, the ever-painful trial of living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I had the phenomenal support of my lecturers, my family, and my friends.
I think that is what I truly learnt this year; that it is only you that can to stop suffocating yourself with pressure and loosen that noose around your neck. In my struggles to get to that illusive succession, I alienated myself from the people most important to me. I would lash out, or burst into tears, or just shut these people out completely. They could see how much pain I was in just as well as I could see myself. And yet, the respected this and understood my actions. They remained in my life because they knew exactly what I was going through and understood that I would eventually realize the unnecessary pressure I was putting myself under and slowly return to my "normal" - well, as normal as I can be - self.
For this, I thank them. Their presence and words have taught me a lot this year. They've taught me that being independent is fantastic, that having that driven attitude despite welfare circumstances is admirable... but it is okay to admit that you're not okay. It is okay to lean on people from time to time. It is okay not to be the strong and unmoved character of the group that has the tremendous amount of pressure to hold things, and people, together.
I've come to the understand that I don't need to meet other people's standards or paces. I don't need to maintain a life like others'. What I do need is to remember myself, to remember that I have the capacity to achieve things without putting myself under such strain and pressure, to be honest with my lecturers, and most importantly, to remain true to myself.
I survived this year. I can survive the next.