rebecca-lee-the-abcs-of-growing-up

A

Anxiety, Airplane Mode, Abstract

When stuck and struck with waves of anxiety, I allow myself to be paralyzed. I don’t fight the current, because I know they would eventually carry me back to safer shores.

I switch my phone to airplane mode, and my body takes this as a cue to calm down. No emails, no notifications, no calls, no texts. I am alone with a cup of tea, a pen, and a blank notebook.

Okay, I tell myself, Write down your fears, and write down your dreams. Plot contingency plans for your worst-case scenarios; plot timelines for your biggest dreams.

This is lesson number one: always concretize the abstract.

 

B

Balance, Breakdown, Breakthrough

When I am asked how I manage my time and tasks, I see myself balancing on a tightrope between a breakdown and a breakthrough.

The moment I feel calm and complacent, life throws a curve ball that propels me forward but throws me off-balance.

This is lesson number two: always have something (or someone) to hold on to.

 

C

Commitment, Choice, Chance

When I am told to stop being the jack-of-all-trades and the master of none, I say, “I’m still testing the waters.”

I never knew how the “master” decided what to master, he probably started as a jack-of-all-trades. (And I secretly think Jack is more fascinating.)

This is lesson number three: it’s better to be the jack-of-all-trades who takes his chances than the master who is caged in his comfort zone.

 

D

Decisions, Deadlines, Direction

When I am told that I can be anything I want to be and do whatever I want to do, I grapple for a way to change that. Limitless possibilities paralyze me.

At 12, I wanted people to stop telling me what to do. At 21, I just want concrete instructions and clearer directions. I function only on deadlines and word counts now. If none are imposed on me, I create and impose my own creative constraints.

This is lesson number four: embrace limitations as paradoxical frenemies. They exist to be to be broken, but they anchor the indecisive overthinkers.

 

E

Efficiency, Effort, Exhaustion

When I was growing up, I was taught to work hard. If you weren’t exhausted 24/7, you weren’t working hard enough. Mindless exhaustion took its toll, so I was forced to be more strategic. I learned that exhaustion should not be a badge of pride.

This is lesson number five: working smart is more important than working hard, just as results are more important than efforts.

F

Fragments, Finality, Flux

When I am asked for my resume, portfolio or ID photos—documents that supposedly represent me—I revise them endlessly until the deadlines force me to stop.

Once I hand them to others, I lose the power to change them. There’s a sense of finality whenever they are sent, but I am never “final.”

This is lesson number six: representations of you are fleeting fragments. You can’t be caged inside the four corners of a document or a photograph. You stay still only for a moment; you are shot and captured only for a second.

Because you are in flux, in constant motion, ever-changing. You are nuanced, a paradox, an explosion of contrasts, an abstract art.

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