Things got a little dark and gloomy on that last one, didn’t they?
I’m starting to realise that this writing thing is a lot harder than it seemed. Writing shit you actually really care about and pretending that it’s totally chill if no-one likes it. Rewriting a post time and time again because of how it makes you sound. Trying your hardest to make sure this blog doesn’t start to resemble some little girl’s feelings journal ( – men don’t do emotions, we lift heavy weights and break things with our fists).
It’s a weird sensation, pulling the social-media curtain away for a minute and revealing your real thoughts and fears. There’s something powerful about finding out just how many people are on the same page as you. Just how many people are going through a version not far from your own. Just how many of us feel stuck in a rut with that fear of not amounting to anything lurking deep inside.
I guess one of the things they really do have right about millennials is our infatuation with our own potential. Growing up coddled and praised from day one, taught that we can become anything we want to. Yet somewhere along the line we lose that air of arrogance we used to radiate. For some of us it just fades, some of us are brought down a peg or two by life.
For the sake of total disclosure, I’m going to put my hand up and say that I, Sam Rabinovitz, was an asshole in high school. There’s no denying it. When I rocked up to Birmingham I was ready to continue my reign as Boy Genius and party my way to the top of the class. Imagine my surprise when it struck me that Mr Calvo sold dreams and I was in way over my head. Physics – what was I thinking?!
Although, my delusions of grandeur didn’t appear out of nowhere. I guess if you’re called Gifted & Talented for long enough you start to believe it. Boohoo, sad story – I know right? It’s just how our schools work. From day one of kindergarten, once you’re done eating glue and they set you to work ( – I told you I’m special), we’re glorified for getting things quickly and for making it look effortless. So much so that you can go through your entire formal education not being challenged until you sign up to, I don’t know, a three-year £42k degree to study a subject you’re not actually that good at?
I recently came across the findings by Dr Carol Dweck (Mindset: How You can Fill Your Potential), discussing that this all comes down to a single question – do you believe that your basic intelligence is a given trait or a skill that you may train and improve upon? It sounds so stupid to me now, the thought had never even occurred to me. I actually envisioned intelligence as this have or have-not gift. I remember so clearly reasoning with myself when I didn’t get the highest grade in the class that they worked harder than me – like that’s anything of to be proud of!
Dweck goes into detail about the “wall” that pre-med chemistry students hit when they realise they’re actually going to have to work for it this time around. So when the third week of lectures arrived and the Dutch courage from Freshers started to dissipate, I was in for a pretty rude awakening. If you’re only a somebody when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful?
For one, you become that person that goes on long-ass sport movie quote rants on Twitter like ‘Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give; it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.’ and if Sylvester Stallone’s Botox-ed face wasn’t enough of an indication – that’s not a good look on anyone.
Lucky for me, I’ve been known to exhibit a pretty bad case of hubris. So when I was in the middle of licking my wounds after my tremendous failure of a second-year and UoB came knocking to ask if I’m sure academia is really for me – I popped off.
The disrespect wasn’t uncalled for. Hell, maybe it’s the tough love I needed. After that I pulled the finger out and vowed to make them recognise me. I refused my place at Illinois and came back to Birmingham like Maximus Decimus Meridius, hungry for my vengeance in this semester or the next ( – yes I watch and refer to a hell of a lot of movies and you’re going to need to do the same if you’re going to join me on these semi-regular cries for attention).
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t write this post so you can pat me on the back and congratulate me for getting my shit together when it mattered. I mean, that’d be great, but I promise there’s some purpose to this self-involved tell-all.
The hardest step to take at university is the realisation that you’re solely responsible for your degree. All the way up to the end of sixth form it was a part of your teacher’s job to concern themselves with your progress and make sure you’re not falling behind – so even if you didn’t care at all, there was someone there to keep you in check.
After a few months at my job, when I started to feel unfulfilled and realised they’re not making me CEO just yet, my boss sat me down and imparted some important truth bombs on me. Just when I was sitting there complaining about how slow progression is and how I’m not getting exposure to the stuff I want to learn, he looked me in the eye and asked me ‘Who’s in charge of your career – you or me?’
Being obsessed with your potential will either make you anhedonic or take you to the top. We’ve had our fun in the passenger seat but the time has come for action.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.