It was a sunny afternoon and as I walked down the road that led from my classroom to my hostel room, my heart was palpitating and tears were beginning to form in my eyes. The route was a very familiar one as I had walked that path every day for months, but on this particular day, it felt totally different. I had been contemplating making this phone call for a while, but I had not mustered up the courage to do so. “I absolutely need to do this”, I thought within myself as I reached for my phone. Where do I even start from to explain the precarious situation I found myself in?
I was in my final year of undergraduate studies, and as my final examinations dangerously approached, my heart raced. I had also begun to have strange feelings which I could not explain. Just a few days before, as I walked along the road, I felt a strong urge to run into the road as a fast-moving car approached. I knew that was not the solution to the underlying problem, but that seemed to be a quick fix.
How could this be? To many, I had the perfect life: I was the top student in my class at the time, I had a very loving and supportive family – my parents were not wealthy but to a large extent we were comfortable, and they made great sacrifices to ensure we had the necessities of life. My siblings were the best any child could ask for, and we could talk about virtually everything. I was also an executive in my campus fellowship, and I had a cordial relationship with God. Given all these, it was unthinkable for such a silly thought to come to my mind, and I felt no one could relate to my situation.
The phone rang at the other end and in his familiarly jovial way, he called me by my pet name – this broke my heart. I could not even articulate my thoughts. “I’m so sorry, Dad. I am deeply sorry” I busted out between tears. “What is the problem, Darling?”, Dad responded. I could tell he was puzzled because it was sporadic for me to have such outbursts. “I have let you down, Dad. I have disappointed you so badly” I continued…still in tears. At this point, my dad hushed me and made me understand that he has always been proud of me and there was nothing I could do that would make him disappointed with me. He assured me that he loved me dearly and he was eager to know what exactly was wrong so we could think of a way out of it.
I explained to him how overwhelmed I felt with my school work – I spent the day at lectures trying to understand very complex concepts and worked over the night on my project research. I had little time to study, and the workload was accumulating. I could not think of a way out, and as the exams approached, all I could see was how awful my performance was going to be despite putting in my best efforts.
Typically, my dad is a very busy man and perceived by many to be a strict disciplinarian (and he is, but underneath his tough outlook lies a very loving man). Daddy spent the next few minutes explaining to me over the phone that he was proud of me for putting in the effort. He made me understand that regardless of the outcome, he would remain proud of me and that I should never let anyone’s opinion or expectations of me define what I thought of myself and who I became. He invited me home that evening – and together with my mum, we talked things over, and they prayed with me.
It has been several years since this incidence, but I remember it with fondness, and it has been a defining moment for me. The ripple effects of that action I still feel today. This encounter taught me profound lessons that would last a lifetime:
- Many times, we put undue pressure on ourselves: I felt like a failure because I set very high standards for myself and I imagined that everyone else had such high expectations of me too. I bottled up my emotions because I felt that no one could relate to the feelings I was going through. How wrong I was! It turns out that many people can relate to most situations we encounter in some way; this is because they are also humans and experience the full complements of human emotions. In the rare instance that no human can relate, we can be sure that Jesus Christ knows all about what we are going through. I try to imagine the emotions that Jesus would have felt when He prayed to his Father to let the cup pass over him (Matthew 26:39,41,44). I wonder if He felt like He was letting His Father down when He made that request just as I imagined when I placed the call through to my Dad. We need to take the pressure off ourselves!
- It is okay sometimes to feel overwhelmed: I think our culture has trained us to internalise certain emotions and that slowly kills us. It is essential for us to know that it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed in certain situations. Thankfully, we do not have to deal with such emotions on our own. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I never opened up to my parents – thank God I did. My parents used that opportunity to emphasize the need to talk about how I felt and more importantly, to pray about it. In fact, prayer should be the first-line of action. When we feel overwhelmed, there is a tendency for us to want to stay as far away from God as possible, but this is counter-productive. It is during these times that we need to learn to trust God even more.
- Failure is an integral part of life and success: In life, we win sometimes…and other times, we
faillearn. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. In my case, I did not do exceptionally well in my exams, but I decently scaled through all the courses I did. Over time, I have realized that there would always be those times when despite my best efforts, things do not go on as planned. I don’t beat myself up during these times. I have learnt to give myself the freedom to make mistakes and turn my mistakes to excellent learning opportunities.
- Never compare yourself with anyone: I feel like this is a critical point that I need to add. You must define success in your own terms and let that be your standard. You must never let the society or those around you to define success to you. Healthy competition is when you compete against yourself while striving to be better than you were the previous day.
- God’s love for us is constant: We can feel confident to talk to God about whatever situation we find ourselves in because as a Father, His love for us is unchangeable. There is nothing we can never do to make Him love us any more or less. This should give us the confidence to boldly come to Him and freely discuss whatever weighs us down.
I really hope you can relate to my experience and that this inspires you to take the pressure off yourself…
Categories: My lifestyle