When I was a junior in high school, my teacher unceremoniously dropped a test with a low grade on it on my desk and hissed at me, “The play you were in is over. There’s no excuse for grades like these.” This was one instance in a long line of many when a teacher called me out for not working to my potential. (I worked really hard, so I’d probably be a supernova of brilliance if I’d actually worked up to my potential. Oh well.)
She wasn’t taking a scientific approach to the whole scenario, though. My grades as I’d been rehearsing the play were excellent, because I’d been forced to carefully manage my time and plan for reading and studying. Now, with my evenings completely unstructured, I regularly told myself that I could study later. And later often meant half-heartedly doing the readings and cramming the night before the test.
On the other hand, when I was rehearsing multiple plays, leading the Latin club, writing a skit for the NC Junior Classical League competition, and creating fan works for Sailor Moon, I was handling it all pretty well.
High School Kimberly has some wisdom to offer to 30-something Kimberly. Since I received a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2011, I’ve been carefully guarding my energy, living in fear of trying to do too much for my poor self-attacking body. This month, through a confluence of small accumulating commitments, I find myself working full-time, rehearsing an operetta, taking private voice lessons, serving on the boards of two arts organizations, serving on the boards of two academic organizations, taking a graduate level English course, and taking a sketch comedy writing class. In addition, I’ve taken on the projects in the books One Year to an Organized Life and I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
And in spite of the fact that I feel overwhelmed and occasionally flake out on my responsibilities to the various boards and have a giant mound of dirty laundry at all times, it’s been a great thing for me. I haven’t been this engaged with the world and with life since my senior year of high school.
I really like when people talk about “showing up,” meaning bringing your full self into the experience you’re having – whether that’s work, learning, family time, or something else entirely. For the past 15 years I’ve barely been showing up for anything – out of fear that parts of me will be unwelcome, or that I will exhaust my inner resources, that I will be a disappointment, or that experiences will disappoint me. This month, I’ve been forced to show up. I’ve got too many things going with too little time to do any of them half-way.
I’m learning from this first month of what is bound to be an intense spring semester that not only can I handle taking on lots of things, I can thrive, and I am a better person for doing it.