My education became my entire identity.
How did we get here?
Subconsciously, the importance of my academic journey engulfed me and consumed me whole. It became either achieving or achieving—I gave myself no other option.
It was easy to proclaim this when everything was going seemingly well; but I was challenged by the lack of options I subjected myself to when things took a different turn.
Upon reflection, the way I allowed my education to define me was shallow, damaging, and harmful to my mental state. My version of sparkly lights and red carpets involved placing on the Honour Roll, achieving stellar results, the High Achievers List, multiple club committee positions, the titles, and the competitions.
In other words, I was entranced by the acknowledgment, the validation, the chase, the recognition.
But it was all contributing towards a self-worth that was so unstable and fragile. A self-worth purely constructed around affirmations—just the good things.
I became my biggest challenger. The toxicity of my views broke me down to my core. In a way, I was grateful I was forced to challenge the way I was living. Though I tried to churn as much positivity as I could on the outside, I housed a heart that trudged on the inside. A heart so heavy, it drags through muddy and murky waters, towards the vast unknown.
I was reminded of something an artist I admire said.
If you end up getting the results that you don’t want, you might think that your entire world is falling apart. But it’s not.
He shared this coincidentally a month after I found out I failed the second sitting for my papers.
At the time, it really felt like the end of the world when I failed. Though life went on as days turned into weeks and eventually months, something within me had crumbled and shattered. I felt hollow; empty. There was a heaviness that lingered, and I was still adamant in suppressing my emotions. I questioned my purpose, and I wondered if I had reached the end of myself.
The reality being, it was the end of the me I had created.
I am currently in the midst of a period of waiting and uncertainty. I am waiting and preparing for my final sitting; and I am uncertain of my outcome. I write and speak of my mixed emotions, hoping to make sense of them. What I am still trying to learn is to put my best foot forward and trust the process. If it was meant to be, the right door will open.
In the meantime, my overwhelming view of academics defining all that I am had to go. Because my identity is made up of more than my academic abilities. All of us are more than titles, distinctions, trophies, and grades. Though education is important, and a valuable opportunity that not everyone is able to have, we are more than this.
Our identity also includes that spark in our eyes when we speak about what we are passionate of; the love that we exude for people and places; the values that we live by and hold close to our hearts.
We are also made up of our talents. The plants that we nurture with our green thumbs, the way we articulate ourselves through the written word; the way our bodies move and groove to the beat; and the causes we fight for with our voice, even when our hearts our breaking.
We are made up of the happiness we exude, the tears streaming down our face, the hugs we share, the people we love.
We are made up of both light and darkness.
It is not hypocritical to feel sad sometimes, even if you are grateful for what you have. It is not hypocritical to speak of hope, even if you are still trying to figure that out yourself. We are all at different stages in this journey of life. We are learning more about ourselves and who we’d like to be each day.
Our identity is more than our academic abilities, our job title, or our outward success.
We are all of these, and more.
We can be love, light, happiness, joy, pain, sadness, and everything in between.
I hope you, too, will be able to find what makes your heart beat.