Get out of your own way

I started writing here in undergrad, after years of trying and running multiple sites across Xanga, Blogspot, Blogger, Tumblr, you name it. So this is my home for all my musings on various intellectual pursuits, commentary on society’s relationship to technology, and my ongoing exploration of personal and professional identity. Occasionally when I sit to write, I’ll scroll through the scores of drafts I have from the last eight years of writing here.

Here’s a quote from an old draft on vices from 2013: “What I know is that I am a people pleaser by nature, and that…has proven to be both a blessing and a vice. [It’s] inspired me to develop empathy and compassion…[but it can also drive me to fulfill a] sycophantic need to please others [at the expense] of my own happiness.” This got me thinking about how my relationship to others have evolved since then. More importantly, it highlighted how much I’ve changed over the years.

The reality is that no one is paying attention to me as much as I think. I used to ruminate for hours after feeling like I interjected at the wrong time in a conversation or wished I had said something smarter, more clever, more memorable. Those scenes would loop over and over in my head, and the reality was that barely anyone would have noticed nor have perceived it as big of an issue as I did in my mind. This encourages me to focus my attention onto a more productive activity.

As I grow in my personal and professional life, I occasionally fall into the trap of (over) worrying about what others may think of me. The goal is for those I respect and admire to feel the same about me. So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained stronger conviction in my decisions and committed to doing right by me over what is expected. So after a decade of my life competing and dedicating myself to the violin, I decided to put it down to pursue a other academic interests. After spending my formative early twenties in New York, I decided to leave the city of my dreams and the place I still consider home for San Francisco, despite many question marks from well intended friends and family members. I remember being worried that I would let people down because I wouldn’t be able to see them as often or just be there for them. It felt selfish. But of course, each was the right decision for the goal at the time.

So if I could go back in time, I’d remind myself this: “Get out of your own way, and stop worrying about what others may or may not think. Frankly, no one is paying attention to you as much as you think. Embrace that freedom, and use the knowledge to pursue what you want and not what you believe others want of you. Your life will be richer for it.” I’m a constant work in progress but skimming an old draft written by past me was a sweet way to reflect and quietly celebrate growth.