Half a year from now, the recent turn of events might reveal itself as a blessing in disguise, but right now I’m majorly stressed out by it.
University is a huge trigger for me, because there are a lot of bad feelings associated with various elements of it: not only the normal social anxiety in regards to professors and students (which I should be able to handle better now, thanks to therapy), but also additionally heightened social anxiety of administrative staff. It all stems from years ago when I wanted to apply for financial aid and one of the people who had to sign my form yelled at me for half an hour about what a social parasite I was, exploiting the tax payers. I know now that I shouldn’t have “swallowed” all this and protested instead, but I took it all to the heart. On top of it all, I happen to have very intense cases of exam nerves, up to the point where I skip exams at the last minute.
The irony of it all is that in regards to the matter taught, I used to be a very good student – which, again, I turned into a way to pressure myself, because only very good grades were really acceptable to me.
I spent some time reflecting on this and I believe that the problem is that I knew I wanted to do “something with history or archaeology” since the age of 6. It was not merely something I did and enjoyed, it was part of my identity. So every test became not only an examination of what I’d learned, but by extension also an examination of me. Failing or even average performances had no place in it, but that kind of perfectionism is very demanding and sets you up for disappointments.
And I was not only a perfectionist about it, but had a number of special permissions going just so I could do my thing: the combination of subjects I chose required permission by the dean, I did classes at another university as part of an “exchange programme” that they didn’t recognize later…
Originally, I wanted more time for this because there was so much anxiety related to the topic that I meant to untangle the mess in baby steps, in order to prevent what happened yesterday: that I get such a huge anxiety attack that I run the opposite direction as fast as I can. I owe it to my therapist that I snapped out of it again and started thinking it through logically…
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I really want some kind of university degree to prevent all the time and effort and money spent on the first degree from being a complete waste. And I also know that I don’t want to go back to prehistoric archaeology. It was my first love and we were incredibly close for a long time, but had a really messy relationship after a couple of years and I think a divorce and fresh start will be much better.
So, I guess a bachelor’s degree in geosciences it is. It looks like a clean slate. No special permissions required, no foreign languages I need to spruce up (I learned English, Latin, Ancient Greek and Biblical Hebrew in school, but prehistoric archaeology required French), no secondary subjects, no classes blocking one another.
I checked the requirements and deadlines, and I still have about three weeks to present myself to the university administration for starting the process. All I want to do is talking it through with my therapist first, because obviously I will need to work on all the anxiety that comes with the step.
A few weeks ago, I spoke about having opened Pandora’s box in therapy, when I went through all those old memories… Well, it looks like the box has not been emptied yet, not nearly. However, the original box of Pandora also contained hope…
3 thoughts on “Pandora’s Box”
It’s great that you have the courage to work through a lot of those past traumatic memories. It sounds like you are doing what you need to do to get back on track at university. I’d say just continue taking it slow and try not to overwhelm yourself with too much at once. Easier said than done, I know.
Honestly, I feel don’t feel very courageous – I’m more scared than anything else, but it looks like my options are limited. And I do not really have a Plan B either; it’s either fighting or giving up. Giving up in the past didn’t serve me well at all…
Thanks for your encouraging words, Mike. 🙂
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