A Happier Best

I generally entertain the idea that I don’t run away from a fight, that instead I relish a good challenge and embrace growing experiences wherever I may find them.

After two and a half years as a science major, I’ve realized my desire to better myself manifests as less of an intentional pursuit of opportunities as me finding something that looks cool, and then throwing myself in to see what happens. For example, I wanted to go to a private Christian university, so I did, not worrying as best as I could about the financial burden. I am very grateful my parents are currently shouldering it until I get a higher-paying job, but the loans have started to make me nervous. Upon entering said university, I wanted to be a science major–partly because I liked science, partly because I liked the idea of being a physical therapist, and also because I wanted to prove I could pull it off. In addition, I thought it would be good to learn Spanish, and I knew immersion would be scary and uncomfortable. Being a Spanish minor, studying abroad was optional, but I did it anyway. I liked the idea of doing research, so I ended up contacting my professor about an open spot in his lab this summer to see what might come of it. This week, I submitted my research proposal and, if accepted, I’ll be spending a couple months in Arizona studying hummingbirds.

I want to write novels, so I’m working on one. I want to be an illustrator too, with a particular interest in graphic novels—an endeavor I’m just in the beginning stages of pursuing. I’m not sure how I’ll do either of these, and sometimes I drown in my own mediocrity, but it’s a work in progress.

So I like to think I’m ambitious. But the last few weeks have made me wonder.

As the semester is quickly drawing to a close with tightly packed projects and exams, I’ve been procrastinating like mad, and a great deal of hemming and hawing goes on before I actually finish anything. I get distracted, spend far too much time on tumblr, and get caught up in drawing for five hours on a school night. But I’ve been doing this all semester.

So I ask myself if I’m not focusing well enough, or if not caring as obsessively as I used to is a lowering of my standards. I always want to do my best, but this pursuit has started to look different than before.

Freshman year of college, my “best effort” looked like pushing most everything by the wayside, my only free time being my self-imposed Sabbath Friday night to Saturday afternoon. I didn’t write or read much at all. I wasn’t even really all that much into drawing at that point. I was usually stressed out, and attended school functions with a sour feeling somewhere deep within my being—the constant worry that I would regret the diversion.

This semester, however, I write and draw quite often. I procrastinate perhaps more than I should. I tend to wait for inspiration to hit me before doing anything academically significant. I don’t get as much sleep as I used to. I’m in bear hibernation mode with regards to my physical condition. I wear makeup when I have the patience to put it on. I am adamant about not letting academics run my life (any more than it already does, that is.)

This can’t be my best, can it?

I still manage to turn in quality work on time, somehow. My grades aren’t really suffering, last time I checked. I still don’t understand how—maybe magic.

I’m tempted to think I’m slipping, because my amount of general life effort isn’t tightly controlled. It’s a lot more noncommittal and easygoing in parts, but I really do believe it still is my best.

And it’s a happier best, I think. I like it better than the stressed basket-case variety. Here, there’s room for failure and frustration, but ample space to breathe.

Even as finals and projects clamor for my attention and stress breathes down my neck, I operate under the general assumption that things turn out all right in the end. I’m doing my best, after all, and if it’s not enough, God will fill in the gaps.