Wonderful Terrors

I have writer’s block. I can’t find the words or space or time to write about what I want. I’ve been journaling though because despite the craziness of finals and grad school, I can’t shut my mind off even if I try. What follows is an attempt to relieve and relinquish the swarming thoughts in my mind and reconcile some of the words I’ve been scribbling down over the past two weeks.


It feels like my words are shouting what I can’t say aloud:

I want to stop!

I want to feel less crazed.

I want to feel like everything is not urgent.

I want to be okay with doing nothing.

When will it/I be/do enough?

Is this sustainable?


Sometimes people ask me what would happen if I just stopped (stopped rereading/repeating, stopped planning and attempting to ward of unpredictability, stopped surrendering to my watch). Usually, they ask, “what’s the worst that would happen?”  I can’t answer them. I wouldn’t know. I don’t want to know. Instead, I prefer to go through the motions. 

For me, there’s solace in each predictable, planned moment of my day. Knowing each minute will be attended to assuages any concern that my thoughts will distract me.  It’s true that in life there are no counterfactuals but, that hasn’t stopped me from trying to anticipate each situation (and to some extent the various outcomes). It makes things easier to manage.  I need order, structure, and routines. That’s safe. That’s comfortable. It’s incredibly easy for me to rationalize and justify many of these behaviors because I crave that control.

An important, and incredibly influential, role model once said to me, “What wonderful terrors await you 😀 hehe!”. In response to her I said, “So, basically what I derived is that it’s okay to be scared. I hope that this fear will actually fuel me to make the most of this opportunity rather than cripple me. ” I hoped that the concoction of terror, excitement, opportunity, and the unknown that I was about to swallow down by choosing (and eventually coming to) this program would propel me and ignite something in me. 

I wish that I could give in to this terrifying and exciting time but instead I find myself consistently searching for a way out. Instead of embracing this fear I find myself tirelessly attempting to ascertain control wherever I can in an environment that too often feels unsupportive and makes me feel small (apparently that’s how you know you’re doing grad school “right”). So I need to fill my time. I need to over commit. I’ve written about this before but, it’s still relevant. I know it’s still relevant because I can confidently say to myself and others I’ve been “fine” for the past few weeks. But that’s not honest. 

Fine means I haven’t let myself experience any of what’s been challenging me. Fine means I’ve successfully occupied my mind with distractions. Fine means I’ve exerted sufficient effort trying to keep up appearances and be “productive”. Fine means I’m operating more like a machine than a person; I’m operating with the same level of energy and proficiency each day. The never satisfied need (more honestly the compulsion) to make to-do lists and accomplish everything (regardless of the consequences for my body or my mind) is keeping me grounded. But, it’s keeping me grounded. I cannot thrive. In the midst of crossing off each item and feigning fine I’m losing myself by simply, compulsively, chronically going through the motions just to make it through the day, week, month, year, etc. I think I’m trying to say, as soothing as this is, I’m not letting myself encounter any “wonderful terrors”.

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