I am a workaholic, addicted to improvement and productivity. It makes it a little hard to relax sometimes, but I’m happiest when I’m working on something. Especially being a foreigner in England, studying at an English university, I feel that I have something to prove others. Prove that I’m just as good as all the native speakers, can get grades that are just as good and that – even though I have to work quite a few hours on the side to afford my bills – I can easily keep up with all the work. Obviously it’s not a good or healthy reason, but it drives me.
This sometimes gets me into situations that could’ve easily been avoided. Today I want to share a little story about my third year university class choices. And how I dropped out of one in the first week.
In my second and third year at university, I could pick the units I was to follow for the entire year. In second year I was allowed to pick two units; American Literature and Critical Theory. Critical Theory being the hardest unit on the course, I got drawn into it.
“I’ll show them that I can do the hardest unit on the whole course!”
Even though I got high 2:1 and 1:1 for all my other units, I finished Critical Theory with a bare 2:2. For my third year choices I had to pick three units. I ended up picking screenwriting, children’s literature and the follow up unit of Critical Theory. The reason I picked Critical Theory again was simple. Again they’d told me that this was the most difficult unit on the course. Even most English students didn’t have to think twice for not picking this. And there I was… Trying to prove myself once again by picking the hardest unit on the course.
I tried to do most of my reading during the summer. Prepared myself as well as I could. But during the first week of the semester I got an email from the Critical Theory unit. A welcome email to all the students who had chosen the unit, including a 25 pages document about neoliberalism and a worksheet with a ton of questions.
While reading through it, I realised the mistake I’d made. I hardly knew any of the vocabulary used in the neoliberalism document, let alone being able to form answers to the questions on the worksheet. I knew that if I were to take this unit, I was ruining my chance of getting a 2:1 or 1:1 for my degree at the end of the year. Of course, I could look up the vocabulary and spend hours on hours trying to understand the texts, getting myself ready for the essays and exams. But I’d done this during my second year, and ended up with a low 2:2. I decided it was okay to give myself a break and ask the faculty leader to change units.
For me, this was incredibly difficult. I didn’t want to look like I was giving up, simply because the level of English was way too high for me to understand. I felt like I was a failure for wanting to change to Fin The Siecle (end of 19th century literature). But I did it. And he approved my change of units.
Having done this, I feel so much happier and relaxed. Yes, of course the literature unit is going to be a lot of work too, but it’d be much more appropriate for me. I realised it’s okay to give up sometimes. To change something so you can be happier, perform better and feel less stressed. My third year is going to be stressful enough, there’s no need to increase that level of stress simply to prove others that I can finish the toughest unit on the course. The paper we get in the end is going to be the very same.
I’m learning that I don’t have to prove myself. I need to understand that doing a university degree in my second language, while working on the side and trying to maintain a blog are proof enough that I work very hard and am capable of doing all these things! I’m incredibly proud of myself for the work I do and the results I get. The units I’m following now are so much fun and I don’t even really mind doing the work for it.
What I wanted to get across in this little article is, that sometimes the best choice is to give up. Change something. Do something for yourself, not for others.
Has anyone ever experienced a similar experience?
How did you deal with it?