When I was younger all I wanted was to get out of Kansas.
I was going to do big things. I was going to live in a big city. (Despite my inability to ever know where I am going). I was going to travel. I was going to see the world.
Small minds. Small towns. Small people. That’s how I saw the Sunflower State. I was ashamed that we were often the laughing stock of the nation — whether it was rejecting evolution or being the last to catch on to the latest fashion trend, Kansas always seemed to be behind. And I wanted to be ahead.
I applied for jobs all over the country when I graduated in 2011. The only place I got an offer, however, was for an internship. In Kansas. I still thought I would get out. It just might take longer than previously anticipated.
That summer I also visited a friend of mine who had recently moved to New York City. I had been dreaming of visiting NYC for years, and I was totally pumped for the trip. I knew I was going to fall in love. I was worried I would become very jealous of my friend, and upset that I did not live there as well. I was prepared to be heart broken upon my arrival back in that fly-over state.
But then, that actually didn’t happen at all.
Math has never been my best subject. Or even close.
I never received excellent grades in math — always B’s with the occasional C’s. One day in middle school I came home with a C on my report card in my math class. I was then grounded until I got my grade up.
I pleaded with my parents, attempting to convince them I simply could not do better than a C. Math was hard, after all, and I was applying my best effort. Or so the argument went.
My parents, however, insisted that wasn’t true. I wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasn’t asking for enough help, I wasn’t paying enough attention in class…yadda yadda yah.
“A ‘C’ is average, and you are not average. You can do better.”
It didn’t seem to matter what I said though, there would be no television, no friends and no dance classes until my grade was a B or better.
So I buckled down. I took better notes, I asked for help, and my dad stayed up with me every night double checking my homework. Slowly, my grade began to improve.
I never learned to enjoy math, but I did realize I had to try a little harder in algebra and geometry than I did in English or history. I also learned that my parents were right. (Don’t you hate that?!). I could do better than a C.
This is one of the biggest lessons I learned growing up, and probably why I still remember it so distinctly. My parents have always pushed me to put forth my 100% best effort. It wasn’t until I was grounded for not doing so that I realized what I am capable of.
I found this on my Facebook page the other day. I wrote it about four years ago. I decided to share it without editing it (although there are a few changes I would like to make!). For the most part, it’s pretty much all still true.
(Except #3, whoops! I now own both Uggs and Vera Bradley. But way to go 19-year-old me! Way to be an individual! Haha)
Back in the day, I wrote columns for the KU student newspaper, The University Daily Kansan.
Exploring some of my past writings, I came across this gem.
(Author –> Erin Brown, because that’s my maiden name of course).
I used to take pride in my stress level.
I used to believe that my long, extravagant to-do lists and full schedule of extracurriculars were signs of success, and the fact that I could barely sleep at night and felt on edge during the day were simply signs that I cared. That I wanted everything I did to be perfect.
This is how I lived for most of my college years, especially when I started to get heavily involved with the student newspaper. I put on a lot of weight, snapped at the people I loved, and had professors and co-workers seriously questioning my ability to handle my anxiety (for real).
It wasn’t until a fellow editor and friend sent me home early from the newsroom one day (to de-stress, essentially) that I realized my stress was all consuming, and instead of helping me perfect what I did, my inability to manage it was negatively affecting my work and my relationships.
I’ve learned to relax a little since then, to not take on projects and jobs unless I have the time (and it’s something I truly want to do, not something I feel obligated to do). I’ve learned that exercising and eating right are just as important as completing assignments on deadline and worth carving out time for in my day. But mostly I have learned that while achieving goals is fulfilling, no measure of success is more important than my health or spending time with the people I love. (Cheesy, but true).
I still worry about small things, that I admit probably don’t matter in the long run. I still like to be prepared and organized, and can’t function well without my planner, but I don’t lose sleep over the fact that a source hasn’t called me back or that I haven’t completed every single task I wanted to do that day. I understand now that if one thing falls through, everything else will (likely) still be OKAY. But it took me a while, and a lot of self reflection to get here.
A few weeks ago I saw a documentary from National Geographic called Killer Stress, and I was immediately intrigued. The film looks at stress in other species and compares it to human stress. According to the film, stress used to be a reaction to life threatening situations, but today most Americans live in a constant state of stress. A human coping mechanism has now become a switch we can’t turn off.