Thursday, February 23, 2017

What No One Talks About

Recently, I've been so full of joy, simply because I'm alive, and life is good. I felt like it was causing my poetry to drop off, which is ridiculous, because as a wise teacher once said to me "depressing is not deep" (post on this coming soon). I've always felt some of my best writing has come out of the dark patches in my life, and I never think to write about the good things I have.

However, I've always been private about things I've struggled with, and recently that's been tugging at me. I hide these things because I don't like seeming weak, and because I didn't feel like I could acknowledge these struggles in my past and be a "good" Christian.

In 2016, I graduated from high school, as the Dux, the top academic student. It was one of the best moments of my life. I saw all my hard work, the 16+ hours of studying a week, pay off. I cried as they read out my achievements. Afterward, the number of people congratulating me was overwhelming.

But there were some things no one talked about, things that I thought shone a light on what had bought me to that place.

This happens often. When someone does well, no one wants to know about the work they put it, no one wants to hear about the struggles. They are not really interested in your backstory. They want to know about the success.

No one talked about when I almost dropped out of high school. In year 12, I was struggling with my place in the world. Going to school was something I did because it's what was expected. Underneath, my anxiety was at it's worse, I was barley coping with navigating from class to class. I often felt nauseous, beginning during the bus ride in the morning.

I had random bouts of anger at everything, I felt like I was underperforming in everything I did, and I wasn't sleeping properly. If I didn't get a top mark on an assignment I mentally tortured myself until I had to leave the classroom to "go to the bathroom".

No one talked about the hours I spent in the guidance counselors' office. I had this terrifying moment of clarity about being so uninterested in life that I took myself to the guidance counselor. We talked about the pressure I felt like I was under. We talked about stopping the process of spiring down and down. We talked about my anxiety.

No one talked about how much I had given up to study in year 13, and how, in the process I pinned so much on the idea of being named Dux that my worth was tied up in it. That I didn't go to parties or have lunch times where I just hung out with friends. That no matter how much I studied it didn't feel like enough, and I thought I was sliding back to year 12.

A few weeks after mock exams (which are used to calculate who is Dux) and before the awards night, several things came together and I realised that it didn't matter. That God loved me no matter what, that what he wanted was for me to use my talents. This feeling of peace overrode everything else I was feeling, because my worth was tied up in God, not my academic achievements.

During university, I plan to continue working hard, but it's not going to take over my life. I'm going to make time for my friends. I'm not going to let an assignment mark rule my feelings. I've come a long way from where I was, but it's been a hard journey.

This is not a pity post. This is what no one talks about when you do well at something, at the cost of everything else in your life. This is what the person next to you might be struggling with. This is about how you never know what God might have lined up for you. This is about being human, and being okay with that. It is raw, gritty and often ugly. This is about plowing on, and trusting God's plan, even when it seems impossible to see the light.

keep doing hard things, my friends xx
Opal is in the middle of Orientation week!


  1. I'm so glad you shared this - and I think it miht be one of my favourite posts on your blog. What people expect from success stories is very different from reality. In our state, ranks are given on a state level and determine your entry to certain courses and certain universities. I suppose I also aimed high...I've been trying to make it to the top 1%. I understand how much work you had to go through - and honestly, sometimes the weight of it makes me want to just kick my feet back and give up. But hearing your happiness now, I'm again inspired to keep going. Thanks and top post Opal! :)

    1. Glad you could take something away from this post Jo!

  2. Thank you so much for this, Opal! I never really experienced this in high school. Mostly I experienced a lot of anxiety for being so "average". Now as a college student I find myself overcompensating for all of the ways I "failed" in high school. I have to continually remind myself that no grade is ever worth my tears or anxiety. When I look back, I want to know I did my best but I also want to know I was there for the people who are important for me, that I made time to rest, pray, and read God's Word, and that I took time to *enjoy* this world.

    After all, our purpose is to glorify and /enjoy/ God. And when we get to Heaven, I wonder how many of our accomplishments/failures on earth are really going to matter.

    Thanks for being so honest and transparent!

    Dani xoxo
    a vapor in the wind

  3. Ugh. *cries* This is so beautiful. People need to talk about this more. Cause it's real and someone-probably a lot of someones-out there needs this. I needed this. Thank you. <3

  4. I really appreciated this post, Opal - your perspective really is needed, and it was eye-opening for me, because I was home schooled, and even now I'm studying by distance, so I haven't experienced anything like it. I admire your self evaluation, and decision to find a balance between social and study for uni too. Thanks again, and I hope orientation is going well! xx

    1. Wow, that's so cool! Thank you :)

  5. This is so true. I mean, I haven't graduated yet. But I'm applying to some pretty elite university's and I'm trying really hard not to let the results of those, when they come, be connected to who I am as a person. I was talking about something today in a club I was in. And What I was talking about made me cry. And I was ashamed, because I don't want to be seen as weak, I want to be seen as intelligent and capable and goodness knows I'm doing a lot to cultivate that impression and some of it I lovelovelove and some of it...I don't care about, and it doesn't matter to me, and I hate that. And I keep telling myself 'only a few more months' and that's what'd going to happen, and I want to go to university whichever one it is and love learning but also make good friends and learn even more about who I am and all that cliched stuff. Anyway. Yeah, thanks for this.

    1. I hope it all goes well Shanti! I didn't end up at the uni I wanted to, but it's worked out just fine :)

  6. Thank you for this. I study really hard (or kind of... I don't know) (Currently procrastinating so)
    I really enjoy performing academically, but sometimes I worry it's the only thing I'm good at, and that who am I if I don't have grades? I've been working on not always studying (although I am incapable of studying at lunch or during breaks or even before school; so I don't know how you do that but wow) and also being who I am. I don't really know who that is, but it's a process. Anyway, lovely post.

    1. That's exactly how I felt! I hope you have a wonderful time working out who you are :)