Priorities

It’s about time that I get my priorities in check.

This semester has been rough to say the least. I can’t remember a time within the last two months where I haven’t been stressed, worried, or anxious. I’ve been biting my nails more than usual until they bleed and ache for hours. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve been eating everything in sight, and none of it has been very healthy.

When one of my friends came up to me at a party a few weeks ago and asked how I was, I responded with “I’m so stressed out” followed by a rapid list of my problems. Problems that I’ve been allowing to rule my life since August.

Last month, I started seeing a therapist. With the exception of one or two therapy appointments my mother forced me to attend in the third grade, I have never sought any professional help for my anxiety and self-esteem problems I’ve been dealing with over the last few years. So far, it’s helped. I’ve left each appointment feeling better. Calmer.

During my last session, I was talking about how busy I am, how behind I am, how I’m not satisfied with my classes and grades and work performance at The Maneater. And my therapist used a somewhat cheesy metaphor:

There are different aspects of a life. No person is completely one thing. For example, there is Maneater Claudia, who works, edits, writes and manages a whole section of a weekly paper; there is School Claudia, who struggles to stay afloat with 15 credit hours and a particularly awful multimedia class; and then there is Claudia Claudia, who likes watching “BoJack Horseman” on Netflix, reading before bed and going to parties with friends on the weekends.

Now, picture all of these different aspects as balls. It can be difficult for one person to carry so many balls at once, so you have to put them in a basket. But the basket isn’t always stable, so you have to put the balls you never want to drop in the center.

“Which of these balls is the most important?” asked my therapist. “Which would you put in the center?”

I didn’t hesitate. “Maneater Claudia,” I said. “And, like, School Claudia.”

Truthfully, my answer and the speed of my response caught me off guard.

The Maneater is very important to me. Making sure I have stories pitched out is important, everything going smoothly for my writers is important, successfully planning and managing Long Reads is important. Similarly, treating classes like a job and getting good grades is important. But what is more important is my health.

Claudia Claudia is the ball that should be in the center of my basket. Claudia Claudia should be my top priority.

I started thinking about how I never do things just for me anymore. I haven’t read a book since summer vacation, I haven’t gone on walks simply to walk, I haven’t stayed in and watched a movie I’ve been meaning to see for ages. And I am deciding to change that.

I need to start taking better care of myself. I need to start doing things I enjoy again, without constantly worrying about deadlines and due dates.

Two nights ago, I spent a few hours walking around downtown. I bought coffee from Lakota. I browsed through the shelves in Yellow Dog Bookshop for a solid 45 minutes, buying two books on a whim (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson and “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood). I had girls night with my roommates and watched “One Day,” a movie I’ve wanted to see for the past three years (and it was kind of a letdown).

I didn’t think about planning future Long Reads. I didn’t think about the edits I’d have to make with writers the following day. I didn’t think about how I have a video project due in multimedia soon, even though I have no idea how to even turn on a video camera. I didn’t think about my Cross-Cultural final project and how I have no time to commit to it. I didn’t worry about the ungodly amount of chips and salsa I was eating, even though I’m fairly certain I’ve been gaining weight at an astonishingly unhealthy rate since returning to Columbia. I didn’t worry about updating my resume and making it non-ugly and applying for internships.

I need to have more of these nights. I need to start putting myself and my needs first and not let work, both school and Maneater duties, overwhelm my life.

Yes, Maneater Claudia and School Claudia are important. I love working at the paper and I love being in college. But I can’t lose sight of Claudia Claudia — the friend, the daughter, the sister, the person.

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