In a previous post I mentioned picking up a postcard from a stationary shop in London that read, "Worry is a misuse of your imagination". I've kept that card propped up on my desk. I also have an extra one framed on my bedroom wall that I can see from my bed. Worry has been a constant companion of mine for some time now. Many years if I'm being completely honest. My wild imagination has been another companion of mine, ever since I was a small child. So the two together make my brain go a little crazy sometimes. Which reminds me of this pic I snapped of some street art in London a few years back. Sometimes my mind tells me wonderful things. But sometimes it tells me lies. It's always a bit of a trick to figure out when that's the case.
As I've talked about, numerous times now, I've been slowly but steadily working towards taking my comp exam. The exam finally took place on Tuesday (March 21st). At the time of writing this, it's been less than a week since taking the exam, so I'm still at least a week and a half (or so) from getting my results. And let me tell you....my friend Imagination is having a grand old time with our old friend Worry. My worry has gone into overdrive and it's getting hard to handle. I've gotten so much better recently at not letting my worrying get out of control and to not constantly descend into worst case scenarios that play out in my head on repeat like a broken record. But since my exam that's been really hard to keep under control. And as a result it's not just my exam I'm worried about, it's starting to spill out into other areas of my life. Like, on exam day, it wasn't just my exam I was worried about! It was everything!
What if I oversleep?
What if I get sick the morning of and can't leave my apartment?
What if getting ready goes fine but then I trip and fall down the stairs on my way to my car?
What if my car isn't there, what if it was stolen? (No joke, I actually had a bad dream about this at about 6am on exam day.)
What if my car is there but it won't start?
What if there's a bad accident on the highway and I'm late?
What if the garage I need to park in on campus isn't open and I'm late because I have to find parking somewhere else?
What if I get hit by a car crossing the street from the parking garage to my building where the exam is?
What if I get stuck in the elevator on the way up to the 5th floor where I have to meet the person who's administering the exam?
Guess what? None of those things happened. You want to know the worst thing that happened between getting up that morning and getting my exam questions from our program manager at the start of my exam?
I got a paper cut on my knuckle. Yep. A paper cut. That's it. That was the "big tragedy". It didn't even hurt! I just looked down and saw this red line on my hand.
The exam itself went alright. I actually loved ALL the questions on the exam. There were 8 total, I only had to answer 3. But they were all really great questions, it was hard to pick. Some were definitely easier than others but I could have answered them all if I had to. I chose my questions and set to work answering them in the 4 hours I had. That's when the worry started to set back in.
4 hours isn't as long as you think it is.
That time went by so quickly. Like, lightening fast. My advisor had given me the tip of 1 hour to outline, 2 to write, and 1 to edit. It ended up being more like 1 hour to outline, 3 to write and then frantically editing for 5 minutes during the "time cushion" I had to email my exam to the program manager. It was NOT enough time. Not even close.
Then afterwards I was looking at the questions again and realized I had answered one of them
What if I failed my exam?
Most people will tell me not to even think that. But too late. I've been thinking that from the moment I realized I flubbed that question. Yes, sure, I know. It was still my longest answer on the exam, it was still answered in great detail, it still basically answered the question. The likelihood of being failed on that one answer is pretty small. But we can't help what we worry about right? Even if I had answered that question exactly as it was written, I'd be finding something else to worry about and torture myself with for the next week or so while I wait for the results. So what do I do to try to not worry? I have an idea.
I'm going to write down all the big things I'm worried about right now. Just write them down here, publish this blog, and let them go. Kind of the digital equivalent of writing them down on a scrap of paper and then symbolically burning them. I'm terrified of fire and accidentally burning my apartment to the ground so this is definitely a safer option in more ways than one.
Things I'm worried about:
1. That I've failed my exam.
Chance that this will happen? Low.
If it does happen? I'll retake the exam.
Will this kill me? No. I'll live. But I will be really annoyed. I'd get over that. Eventually.
2. My student loans for my final year will get screwed up and I will either not get them or will receive a drastically lower amount than needed.
Chance this will happen? Low(?) I don't know, it should go through just fine, but I'm not sure.
If it does happen? It would really suck. No London. I'd have to back out of the conference. I might lose my apartment.
Will this kill me? No. But my parents might if I have to move back in with them. Let's hope that doesn't happen.
3. Someone will break into my apartment and steal all my things (a recurring fear/worry, but is it paranoia if it's actually happened? That's another story).
Chance this will happen? Really low. Because I'm so paranoid about locking my door. Because it has happened and I never want to experience it again.
If it does happen? I'm insured. Learned that lesson the hard way.
Will this kill me? No. But I am reminded I need to back up my hard drive again.
4. I won't graduate on time (due to anything and everything from having to retake my comp exam to not finishing my dissertation on time to freak natural disaster--I told you I have a wild imagination.
Chance this will happen? Low. My advisor has promised to get me graduated on time and I'm equally committed to that goal.
If it does happen? Would open up a whole other can of worms financially.
Will this kill me? No, but it would prolong my time finishing my degree if I have to write my diss while finding/working a full time job.
5. Something horrible will happen to me or someone I care about.
Chance this will happen? It's life. Horrible things happen to us all the time. That's the risk we take living our lives.
If this does happen? Horrible things have devastating effects. It would be miserable if something horrible happens.
Will this kill me? Most likely no. I've been through horrible things before. I've lost people I loved, I'd had friends turn away from me, I've been hurt, I've had set backs and disappointments. But none of that, even the really truly horrible things, has killed me yet. It's only made me stronger. Hmmm. There's a lesson there....
We can spend so much precious time and energy worrying about things that haven't happened/probably never will happen. If you're like me, you probably try to convince yourself that by worrying about all these horrible things that probably won't even happen you're creating a mental battle plan for how you'll deal with these catastrophes that, reminder, having happened. This is one of the lies our brains tell us. That by worrying endlessly about hypothetical catastrophes we're "preparing for the worst". God, what a horrible way to live! I'm tired of doing this to myself. Aren't you?
I'm committing myself to posting this blog and focusing on things I actually have some control over.
Like, work on my prospectus and locking my door. Everything else, I just have to wait and see. My loans will probably go through just fine (and add to my long term mountain of debt, yippee), I will pass my comp exam (so my prospectus had damn well be ready), and at some point something horrible probably will happen, because that's life. I'm not going to hide in my apartment because I'm afraid of falling down the stairs and breaking a bone. You deal with life as it happens. The good and the bad. You can't live things that haven't happened yet, not matter what your brain tries to tell you. So I'm going to live my live, as it happens, and (try to) not worry about things that aren't realities in my life.
Is there something you've been worried about? Tell me in the comments. You can use the same format I did above. What's your worry? What's the honest chance it will happen? What if it does happen? Will it kill you? Share your worries like I did and then let them go in this digital bonfire of worries.
Burn baby, burn!