The smell of crisp fall leaves is in the air, and despite my denial, fall is upon us. No longer can I leave the house in a sleeveless top and the jean shorts I’ve worn into a perfect fit. Despite the negative connotations of fall (heck, the leaves die and fall of the trees!) there is beauty in this season. To me, fall has always signified, more than any other season, beginning. A new year begins in fall. Not a calendar year, but for most intents and purposes fall marks a new year of school, of work, of experience. Leaves are not the only crisp fall items. Blue jeans, fresh from the store, fall crisply over increasingly appreciative legs. Stark white paper rustles in my binders, ready to be etched upon with the words of professors and scholars. Snippets of hair fall down with the cut of scissors at the hairdresser as I ready myself to tackle the new year with a fresh perspective. Crisp, clean, fall signifies beginning to me- despite its natural processes.
This fall marks, for me a beginning of monumental quality. Ten months deep into my recovery, I’m putting all of my strategies to the test in a trial-by-fire. Being back on a University campus is thrilling, but not without its anxiety. I’m at a new school, it’s a fresh start for me. Halfway through my bachelor of arts, I’m trying a new program, a new living situation, a new school and a new outlook. Trying these things on for size is somewhat like trying on a new pair of pants in the store. It’s not quite comfortable at first, but after the new-jeans smell dissipates and the butt stretches out a little, you’re good to go. You know you like the way they look, but the feel takes a bit of getting used to.
It has been a busy few days. I’ve interviewed for a job, been in contact about a volunteer position, and started my courses. My head is reeling with new information, my back is a little sore from carrying heavy textbooks and my wallet is most certainly feeling the pain overpriced course reading. I’ve been an anxiety-ridden individual for the past week, thinking about my options and feeling worried about making wrong decisions. I attended my classes and enjoyed them, but was faced with the need to drop one of them. Dropping a course is no easy task for me. Most people seem to have no trouble re-arranging schedules, switching things up to suit their needs. For me, however, I prefer to have everything in order before I set foot on campus. Truth be told, until I had to drop all of my classes last year I had never changed anything to do with my courses. For my first two years of University I took six courses per semester instead of the usual five, insistent upon exceeding my own expectations not only in sheer number of courses but in performance. It’s understandable, given my history of over-achieving, what the difficultly in taking a mere four courses (gasp!) this semester would be.
As I mulled over my options in my head, I began to wonder what it was that was stopping me from dropping what would clearly be a stress-inducing struggle of a course that I don’t even need for my program. Was it that I would need to find a different course to satisfy the math-or-science requirement of my new program? Was it that I wouldn’t be taking as many courses I possibly could? Was it a lasting reticence to “quit” something from my days of persistence-to-a-fault? I came to the conclusion that it was a combination of the above, and instead of using this as an excuse to stay in the course, I used it as a reason to do so. I once again found myself needing to go against my inner critic and go with my true gut instinct. I needed to trust myself enough to know that the world wouldn’t end if I took four courses instead of five. I needed to reflect back on the things I’ve learned about myself over the past ten months. In particular, I needed to refer to one of the most important things I’ve discovered in recovery: life is not a race.
It has become quite obvious over the past few days that there are still things I need to work on in terms of my perfectionism and anxiety, but I am doing the work. By continually putting myself in situations that push the boundaries of my comfort zone, I’m working on changing the core beliefs that got me into trouble in the first place. Whether it’s getting involved in my campus community, dropping a course, meditating every day no matter how busy I feel, or sitting down to a nice dinner with my mom, there are things I can do to make sure that this beginning is a good one.