Wednesday, March 30, 2011

a little thing called pride

So the last time I posted was my last day of class last quarter. I had such good intentions of blogging here over my break, catching up on Oliver's blog, working on his baby book, and organizing our home. I would love to say that I did at least one of those things...I guess I started organizing Oliver's baby clothes and rearranging his room, but I did not have time to finish so I had to leave it in a disastrous state.

The good news? This is the beginning of the end. Tomorrow is the first day of my last quarter of college classes ever. My heart started beating a little faster as I typed those words. I will be done in June. Then, I will only have a part-time practicum to complete next year, and I then I will have my MSW! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's beautiful.

I finally finished up my Senior Capstone Project (equivalent to a thesis in my field).  I worked so hard on that project and I'm so glad it's done! I got a 4.0 on it, which I am happy about. The night I turned it in, W and I met up at Red Lobster after class to celebrate (my mom was in town at the time so she was at home with Oliver). W brought me some balloons and flowers to the restaurant, which was so sweet of him.

The last time I posted, I mentioned that I had been feeling prideful about school. I've been thinking about how I got to this point. While I was working on my BASW, I finally found the thing that clicked - the thing I felt passionately about. Where was social work when I first started my college "career" in 1998? Why did I not know about this amazing field and how I would fall completely in love with it? So fast forward to 2007 when I was finally able to start the Social Work Program. I had several years of college under my belt (as in nine) so I knew how to do the student thing. Now that I didn't have to deal with annoying classes like Math and Chemistry, I could really excel at academia. Plus, I was motivated to get good grades in the event that I decided to apply to grad school, which I thought was pretty likely. Therefore, I became super competitive (which, in most cases, I am quite the opposite of competitive - I would rather my sports team lose and see the other team win, if that gives you an idea). I worked very hard. I got As in all of my classes and graduated with honors. I liked that I was a good student and was respected by my professors and peers. I liked that my writing had improved over the course of my Bachelor's Program (one of my professors even told me I would be crazy not to apply to Law School - which I think is so funny because that is the last thing I would ever want to do). I felt really confident in my abilities as a student (at least as far as social work courses are concerned. Biology is another story).

So then I started graduate school in 2010, to work on my MSW. W and I talked about how there wouldn't be as much pressure now that I wasn't competing for grades to get into grad school. Who cares what my grades are now, as long as they are somewhat decent, right? Wrong. I was still stuck in that competitive "I will get amazing grades and impress my professors and peers and graduate with honors again" mode. And that? That is prideful. I didn't even think of it in this way at all until it was lovingly pointed out to me. Once it was, I immediately realized that this has been the case. Instead of focusing on things that are more important, I have spent countless hours "perfecting my final project." Of course, this is a good thing to do, but maybe not the absolute best possible use of my time when I have so much on my plate, including the most amazing little boy whom my heart aches to be with when I am not. I just got so caught up in it. Playing the role, getting praise from my professors, having them expect the best from me, not wanting to disappoint them. So now, as I begin my final quarter, I am finally getting my act together. I am finally putting school lower on the priority list. I have part two of my research class to take, and I'm not looking forward to it. But, I'm taking it pass/fail and I'm not going to put the pressure on myself to get a 4.0 in the class when all I have to do is pass (like I did with my Policy class in the Fall...I took it pass/fail and I ended up with a 4.0 because I'm such a perfectionist. Ridiculous.)

Lately, I have also been thinking about this:

It's so true. I can be an amazing student, I can be an amazing mom, I can turn a struggling program around at work and make it into something huge that impacts peoples' lives for the better, I can join a goal group and be in a fitness challenge, I can make healthy, homemade meals for my family, I can keep records for my family and blog and take pictures and have a photography business...but I can't do it all at the same time. This has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned while being in graduate school. It is something that I really needed to learn, and I can't believe it took me so long to realize it. I was trying to juggle school (not just school - being a perfect student in school), work (did I mention that while I like my job, it is incredibly stressful and I have probably lost at least a year of my life from the stress?), my family, my house (which gets the brunt of the craziness), and this fitness challenge (starting an hour and twenty minute workout at 11:00 pm and not seeing W for more than ten minutes a day because "I have to keep up with the fitness challenge" is the opposite of healthy), spiritual nourishment, and a little r&r (ie. blog reading like a zombie because I'm too tired to move or do anything else). And all of this? This is also prideful. It really is.

So, I have decided to cut back. This is really difficult for a perfectionist to do, you know. So I'm taking little steps. Instead of working out for 1 hour and 20 minutes to get my max. points for the fitness challenge, I only work out for 40 minutes a night and get the minimum points...but I also clean my kitchen and spend more than ten minutes with my husband. Instead of striving for a 4.0 in my Research class, I am all about scraping by. Luckily, I have a professor for this class whom I have not had in the past, so she does not have high expectations of me, and therefore, I will not be letting her down (yes, I am also a people-pleaser, which I have also realized over the past few years, being in school).

It's refreshing to feel this way. To realize that I don't have to do it all and be everything all at once, while doing it perfectly. I think that as women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I am giving myself permission to let some things go. It's about time! Here's to a halfhearted effort in my final quarter of classes ever. Bring it on!


Mel said...

You have done an amazing job in school, I am in awe! I'd never thought about how being a perfectionist is sometimes prideful. That is so interesting and true. I'm glad you're cutting back and prioritizing and that it's a weight off your shoulders. It is dang hard. The end is in sight!!!

jack!e said...

You can do it Ashley! I wish I was more like you in so many ways. Just wanted to let you know you are awesome.

Andrea_N said...

Wow, you nailed it. So glad you're almost done with school & finally able to breathe. I find myself struggling with so many things to balance. I don't always giving the attention to what needs it the most but maybe what I like doing the best or think will get noticed the most (subconsiously of course, yet highly prideful). Yay for letting go and taking control!