Take Time to Reflect

No, you are not good enough. You are perfect and complete from before the beginning of time

– Mooji

A while ago, I’d been thinking to myself about why we keep going at tasks which are challenging, or even unpleasant. I’d been wondering about this often while in the water, because, for a time there, I wasn’t much enjoying surfing. A lot of my sessions were a struggle. Endless mental chatter, questioning why I did something wrong, second-guessing myself, comparing myself—I felt compelled to critique myself, more than usual.

“It was a huge ‘now what?’ moment”

            I was going through a lot of changes in my life a couple of weeks ago. Graduating left me in a strange limbo. It was a huge, “now what?” moment. After those many semesters and essays and quizzes and tests, I couldn’t help but feel a little… disappointed. Like a birthday, I supposed something had changed, but I didn’t really know. I kept thinking to myself, “I’ll get a piece of paper in the mail and that will suddenly mean something? Suddenly mean I can make more money, or that I can go back for more schooling?”

            I suppose we do things that are unpleasant for many reasons. We have bills, we are supposed to, we paid for the semester, our parents/ teachers/ siblings/ friends/ bosses tell us to; we do things every day that don’t necessarily bring us joy, but we feel compelled to do because, well, that’s what we must do. Right? I’ve graduated, finally, because I wanted to, because I enjoy education, but also because that’s what I was supposed to do.

            Yet, no one was telling me to surf, and I still did. I still waxed up and paddle out. I battled it out with my negative voice in my head, the voices that were, louder than normal, saying I wasn’t good enough, that I looked stupid, that I should give up. I battled with that voice, for thirty minutes to an hour. Sometimes it’s quiet, and sometimes it’s extremely loud. Most days I don’t know what decibel level my self-talk will be at until I’m taking off on my first wave, but a couple of weeks ago it was almost always on maximum volume.

Why We Continue

            There are a lot of reasons to do activities or tasks we don’t enjoy, and I’d been wondering whether I should keep forcing myself to get in the water. I had pushed through the annoyances of classes, assignments, jobs, laundry, cleaning, moving, and so much more. But each of those tasks had an endpoint, it had a measurable stopping point where I could stop, look back at the experience and say, “look, I did it, it sucked, but I did it”. Surfing doesn’t have an endpoint, really, yet I found myself looking for one, needing one, and actively setting that endpoint farther and farther every time I got in the ocean.  

            The moment I finished my final class for my degree, I was excited for about twenty minutes. I was told I’d done a good job, that I should be proud, that I did something important. But I didn’t feel it. It had been over a week and I didn’t feel much different. I didn’t any better know what I wanted from life, or what was next. In the same way as when I would finish a session and take away all the enjoyment of it by focusing on what more I had to do to get better, I didn’t embrace the accomplishment I’d made with graduating from college. Often, even in the water, I would chide myself, thinking about everything I could have done better. And that parallel, between how I could have done better in the water, with how I still didn’t measure up, is only visible to me now, having gotten space from it.

Forcing Myself to Keep Going

I kept telling myself I had to surf, even when I didn’t enjoy it, because I had to be better, to improve. But what happens when you spend all your time chasing the next finish line, without ever taking a step back to admire the trophies you already possess? What happens when the next achievement doesn’t exist, because you chose not to accept it as an achievement? I kept surfing because I was chasing that moment, that empty yet clear-headed moment of joy and clarity and fulfillment, but I couldn’t seem to get to that feeling because I would deride myself, or decide there was still yet another failure of mine hidden in the happiness?

“Surfing had become tedious”

Forgetting to Reflect

When we stop acknowledging our achievements and stop embracing what we are doing, in that moment, we get dragged down and discouraged. Surfing had become tedious because I stopped enjoying the journey; I was focusing solely on the destination, solely on what was next. Graduating felt like a strange limbo because I’d been focusing for so long on what was next, that when there stopped being a “next”, it scared me.

It made me feel vulnerable and unprepared; I didn’t have an immediate goal, right there in front of me, and that was a strange feeling. Oddly enough, I think the absence of tasks meant that I channeled my energy into surfing, searching for something more out of each session, because I felt as though I was lacking in some way after graduating.

Three Incredible Things Occur

1. I gave myself permission to not do anything, for two weeks, with the brilliant advice of my mom, who reminded me that sometimes taking a step back is the best way to take a step forward.

2. I started enjoying surfing again, more than ever, once I stopped trying to make it more than it needed to be, or mean more than it need to mean.  

3. All my creative energy came together into the manifestation of this blog, which I am more excited about than ever.

It’s Okay

            It’s normal to feel vulnerable, and a little disillusioned, after graduating, or any big life-task. I talked to several people who said the same thing, and it made me feel more grounded to know that I wasn’t alone. So, sure, we often do things we don’t enjoy because we must, but what about the things no one makes us do, the gifts we can give ourselves in the pursuit, in that journey? I believe those opportunities are the ones that make my life better, that keep me going through all those tasks (groceries, laundry, cleaning, errands, you name it) I must do. It seemed that once I didn’t have anything I had to do, I turned surfing into a chore, to fill up the void I was feeling.

Accepting Our Journeys

“The wave I’m riding is exactly the wave I’m supposed to be on”

            Now, after several tumultuous weeks, I realize the void itself was my own creation; the void I felt was my own fear of creating this blog, of doing something I truly believe in—I was afraid of failure, so I focused on all my failures in surfing, because I wanted to prove to myself that I couldn’t do this. I told myself that I wasn’t good enough at surfing to have a voice about surfing, that I wasn’t creative enough, that I didn’t have x, y, or z.

And yet, amazingly, here I am, writing another post, paddling out to catch another wave, and more confident than ever that this decision is the right one. I’ll have more rough sessions, and more challenges, but for now I’m going to enjoy riding this wave, knowing that there doesn’t always have to be a next, because the wave I’m riding is exactly the wave I’m supposed to be on, in exactly the way only I could ever ride it.

1 thought on “Take Time to Reflect”

  1. “To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up.” Dalai Lama

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