I am as guilty of the "overachiever complex" as anyone: I like to do things. In fact, I like to do a lot of things. I've got a "can't stop, won't stop" mentality and I know that for my age, I've accomplished some pretty impressive things. At only 18, I've been interviewed by websites, spoken at a conference and had the opportunity to connect with some very cool individuals.
The problem? A lot of other people have, too.
I live in the beautiful city of Austin, Texas. It's considered to be a crockpot full of hip startups, heart-wrenching nonprofits and a larger-than-life social media presence. This amount of cool and success is especially present in the school district I live in. I mean, my cousin attends the same school as Matthew McConaughey's children and I know a girl who gets her eyebrows done by the same person as Sandra Bullock... Crazy.
Achievement is everywhere, and everyone, myself included, wants in on it.
It doesn't hurt that colleges are getting more and more competitive. Ten years ago, with my resume, I could have easily been accepted to some of the nation's top universities. Nowadays, it's different. Did I cure cancer/eliminate world hunger/obtain world peace (all while juggling a 4.0 and AP classes)? Nope, I'm just that kid who writes a lot.
Writing is all I've had throughout school, so I guess it makes sense that I've thrown myself into the world of journalism in every way possible. This is partly because I love what I do, and also partly because I hate when I can't do what others do.
Being around success can be inspiring but also detrimental. Everyone tells you it's okay to be yourself, but only the "successful" ones are celebrated and admired. Maybe it's in the form of an acceptance letter, or maybe a job offer, or maybe just a comment on your blog or a "like" on Facebook. No matter what people say, it's true. No one ever says to you, "Congratulations on getting up this morning -- I know you're feeling low and I know it took you a while, but you succeeded!"
So we do everything we possibly can to compete against the millions of other human beings looking for the same thing as us: Validation that we aren't total screw-ups.
When my guidance counselor thought I couldn't get into my top college choice, I definitely used that as motivation to prove her wrong (and I did). In the beginning, it was about my love for the school's beautiful buildings, prime location and amazing professional opportunities. At the same time, I can't deny that the reason I worked so hard on that application was because I so badly wanted to walk into my counselor's office, look her straight in the eye and tell her I did it.
I didn't want to be the girl who couldn't make it work. I knew there were other schools I would be able to thrive at, but I was also aware of the fact that everyone knew this was my first choice. Everyone knew, just as well as I did, what it would mean if I weren't accepted: I would be a failure. Or at least, that's what it felt like.
I have a friend who once told me, "I've been called pretty all my life, and I kind of hate it. There's just so much pressure to stay that pretty -- to stay that perfect. What will happen if I can't live up to that expectation?"
I knew exactly what she meant when she said that, and to this day, I can still connect with that conversation. What if I couldn't make things happen anymore? What if I stopped succeeding? Would people still hold the same opinion of me? What would that say about me as a person?
Those are the questions that keep me up at night when I think that maybe I should take a break, or that maybe the work I'm doing is too big for one person to take on. Of course, there are other reasons why I don't: I am passionate about my writing, and it seems much better than the alternative -- wasting my days away on Netflix and Tumblr.
I guess in the end, it just comes down to this: We've got to stop thinking about other people. The idea of living my entire live to please someone else sounds downright exhausting. In the end, it just doesn't matter. It. Doesn't. Matter. As long as we're pleased with ourselves because we're doing things that we love and make us happy, all the rest are just details.