At times I feel as though my intentions are balanced upon a razor's edge. Nothing comes easy in life. This lesson really slams home with my continuing education.
Complacence is ever-present, only a short over-balance and fall away. It takes constant vigilance to be good at what I do. It always takes hard work.
This month has been a particularly low point for my mood, which should come as no surprise given that the theme of my life right now is "necessary sacrifices."
I'm working full-time, attending night classes for engineering, supporting my partner, writing for my blog and novels, and juggling my relationships and life.
I've already pared down my life's activities to just the ones that matter most. I'd love to do more, but I've sacrificed many of the things I enjoy for the sake of maintaining my health and sanity.
All or Nothing Midterm Exams
Going into my second midterm of the class, I rode the contentment of knowing that I scored an A-grade on the first midterm of a notoriously tough engineering course.
There's this abusive philosophy among the engineering professors that nobody should get 100%, and often what that means in practise is that average exam scores range from 30% to 60%. You never know how well you're actually doing in one of these classes therefore.
However, my midterms with this engineering class were particularly unkind to my peers. It was only two questions, with highly involved and dependent parts. Missing an early piece of the question means the rest is unsolvable. What results is all-or-nothing exams, and feast-or-famine grades.
Well this time around, I caught the famine portion of the grading curve for midterm two.
I know what went wrong; I was too busy with work and my dearheart to study enough, and the exam was on material that I was less familiar with. I couldn't derive my way to enlightenment fast enough during the exam.
We'll see what grade I end up getting, but for now I'm stinging from the failure – I got sloppy, and expect a poor grade.
Perfectionism from my Family's Pressure
My family has always expected and demanded much of me. "To those whom much is given, much is expected" was one of those lessons my parents were fond of.
Yet there's a more damaging angle to that: many of my family expect things to be "easy" because I'm so "gifted." They take for granted my struggles and dedication to my studies.
Couple that with how infrequently I fail or make mistakes, and their infrequence makes them sting all the worse. Failures stand out in my memory.
I have not failed often enough in my life to become inured to its pain.
I enjoy being responsible, accountable, and powerful. That said, responsibilities are major stressors and a drain of my energy. It's important for me to only take on responsibilities that are aligned with my goals.
Right now I'm sacrificing my time and happiness on the altar of my future.
I'm growing my tech skills, working towards my engineering degree, caring for my dearheart, writing, and developing new relationships. Of those, only writing is for my own pleasure (and sanity, as it's a coping outlet).
Yet each of those is specifically something I want to have developed in the future.
As much as it stresses me to make these sacrifices now, I know that in the long run they are necessary steps to achieving a future I am content with: being a technologically competent engineer with a polyamorous commune and several published books.
These all mirror my approach to financial independence: I am rushing to FI by making sacrifices in my early life so that I can better enjoy my later years... If I get later years:
Caring for my Dearheart is About Embracing Powerlessness
Lately the largest responsibility I face is caring for my dearheart. He's matriculating into a college, suffering from depression, and struggling with his well-being.
Watching him go through this is yet another lesson in powerlessness. I can influence the outcome, but cannot solve all his problems.
My experience with life in general and dominance in particular is that of limited control. I enjoy having control when I get it, but more often than not I'm struggling to influence outcomes on a high level. It's why I think of myself as an executive dominant:
Executives have limited influence but ultimate accountability for their venture. In my case, the venture is my family and life.
To me, accountability means sleepless nights wondering "Am I doing enough? What can I do better?" It means pushing my dearheart to always do more, be better, and to grow at a sustainable pace. It means pushing myself to my own limits.
I may not be able to control everything, but I can certainly develop my influence to the point where I can effect good in the world.
The Skills Come Flooding Back
Besides worrying over my partner's condition, school is one area where I have some control.
When I started this engineering course, I was tense because I had forgotten much and let my mathematics skills grow rusty with disuse. The skills came flooding back in short order, though. After my first midterm, I felt confident in my abilities again.
Practise breeds familiarity, which makes skills smooth and competent.
I adore competence, and I can admire it in myself when I see it. It's incredible to look back on the years upon years of schooling I've undergone, to see how much different I am now, and to recognise how much I've grown.
Staving Off Complacence
The issue with stacking skills is that complacence is always that overbalance and short fall away.
Everything has a life cycle, and skills are no different. They require maintenance to stay honed, because disuse causes you to lose some of what you had. Yet even when you're atop your skills, you may still make mistakes. It's human nature, and making no mistakes is difficult.
As well, learning new things is always difficult. To learn is to struggle.
This is why I am so stressed with university. There is always the risk of failure, and I can never feel comfortable with my studies. There's always more to do, and school does not fit inside its time box neatly. It sprawls and demands as many resources as you give to it.
Thankfully I only have a little more time left before final exams. My class will come to an end, and I will be free once again to pursue hobbies again.
School is a necessary sacrifice of my time and energy to get where I want.