16 December 2013

I Matter.

It is currently finals hell. Papers and exams galore with ridiculously close due dates. I've been in the same carrel in the law library for longer than I care to try to remember, functioning on a probably incredibly unwise combination of leftover Ethiopian and caffeine all weekend, and I've been mentally beating myself up over each paper I've been writing and each exam I've been studying for.

Right now, I need to know that I am okay. I am not perfect; I will never be perfect; it is completely okay to be imperfect. And being imperfect does not mean I am worth any less as a human being, as a person. If I fail to achieve straight A's or B's, that does not mean that I am not valuable or that I am not worthy or that I am somehow guilty of a moral failure.

Tonight will not determine the rest of my life. This semester will not determine the rest of my life. If I come out of this semester with less than perfect grades, that won't mean that I have somehow forfeited "worthy person status." I will be okay.

I matter, no matter what grades I receive. I matter.

I have worked as hard as I could, maybe harder than I thought was entirely possible. This semester has been hard. It's been hard emotionally, and it's been hard academically. I have had some stunning successes this semester, and I have had some fairly upsetting moments, too.

I have had time to appreciate the relationships that matter most to me.

I have had plenty of time to grow in my understanding of myself and my place in the world, and my place in the many communities to which I belong.

I have worked damn hard this semester, because whatever grades I receive, I've wanted them to be honestly earned, honestly given, but even so, I have to remind myself, grades are not a reflection of my self-worth. Grades do not spell the end of the world if I fail to receive the highest ones. And grades, like so many other parts of academia and higher education, are marked with frailty and precarity. The academy, too, is a site of violence.

I benefit from educational privilege. Certainly, attending Georgetown University lends me further privilege as a student at what is considered to be an elite school. Yet even so, I have experienced and witnessed countless acts of violence -- linguistic, emotional, academic, social, and otherwise -- from within the structure of the academy.

The grades that I earn, whether excellent, mediocre, or poor, will not exist in isolation or free of context. They reflect the extent to which my access needs have been met, as well as my ability to learn and demonstrate my knowledge of class material.

And they are not unimportant or useless or utterly devoid of meaning.

But I must, I must separate my own self-worth from my academic performance.

I need to breathe. I need to smile. I need to laugh.

Hell, I need to look at funny cat pictures on the internet.

I need to learn how to write in language that more people can understand and access, how to write about my ideas and experiences in ways that includes people without my educational privilege in the conversation. Studying at a university has not been helpful to me for this purpose.

I need to make time for myself, only for me, because I need to take care of myself.

This week has been stressful and full of millions of anxieties. Some of this is completely within my control. Some of this is completely outside my control. I will not make the final determination of what my grades will be. And so I have to tell myself that I can't obsess over this. I can't obsess over grades.

I wish there were a button that could turn anxiety off forever.

There's not.

So I have to keep telling myself,

I matter. I am important. I am valuable. I am worthy.

Grades do not define me. Grades do not define my worth or value.

I will keep working my ass off for the last bit of time left in this semester.

And I will be okay, no matter what happens. I will keep living, and I will keep mattering.


  1. Despite the fact that I've graduated already, I needed to read this. This kind of intense academic anxiety is exactly what I went through but you'll come out just fine on the other side of it...and then put pressure on yourself in other areas. Being a dedicated person is a sometimes vicious but always rewarding cycle.

  2. I've said it before, and I will say it again now, out loud: You are a rock star. Which is to say - really awesome, admirable, brilliant and insightful. I think you're great. Also, I've had a lot of coffee. :)

  3. Anxiety can run your life, fear of the unknown. I like to take a deep deep breathe, maybe hold it even, and then really vent it out, slowly. My grandson and I do our big breathes together when he is in worry mode, he is a worry wart and only 7 poor little guy is going to have ulcers. The big breathes really can calm us both down.
    Loved your post by the way! How did you do?

  4. I found this post really touching and life-affirming. Thank you for writing it!


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