Originally uploaded by lilith_kayt.
Letters To Myself
A while back, we were talking, over on Brightmeadow about plans, how to make things happen for yourself, and how to deal with the fear that taking risks brings. I mentioned that when planning on going back to university (a big risk on my part- for some of the story see this post), I wrote myself a letter. I said, on Brightmeadow, that no-one would ever see that letter but me, but I’ve decided to post it here, to share it with the world.
I wrote it when I was in a very positive frame of mind about going back to do my MSc. I knew that things would be tough in terms of time, and money, but most importantly psychologically. I had a big problem that developed over the course of my undergraduate degree, to do with confidence and planning. I got to the point where I was convinced that no matter how hard I tried, nothing I did was ever going to be good enough, so it was easier to fail for acceptable reasons (not handing work in on time, or not completing it in the first place), than taking the risk that I genuinely wasn’t good enough. I’m not sure where this insecurity comes from. I still have days now where I’m convinced I’m not smart enough to by doing a PhD, that I didn’t deserve my MSc distinction, and that someone somewhere will figure me out and expose me as a massive fraud. The difference is, now, I know that that is utterly irrational. I finished with a 2:1, amazingly, given how difficult it was to break through all this stuff during my third year, but was still disappointed, at the time. Now, I know it is a miracle that I finished and didn’t damage myself too much in the process. Someone who helped me a lot with all this stuff brought it into sharp relief- he said ‘Do you really think you are that much smarter than your lecturers and the examiners, that you have so convincingly fooled them?’ I had to accept that I was good enough to be back at university, and deserved the grades I was getting on my MSc.
I knew all of this was going to come back when I started to study again, and I was determined not to let it stop me getting the most I could out of the experience.
So I wrote to myself, the rational confident voice of sense, knowing that if things got really bad my not-spouse-creature would hand it to me and hold my hand while I read it.
I never needed it. Just the act of writing it, gathering that power, that sense of determination and articulating it proved to be what I needed.
When we were cleaning our house last month, I found it, and read it, more from curiosity than anything else. Here it is in full:
OK Kayt. If you’re reading this it will probably mean you have either just hit a really low patch or something has gone wrong.
You wrote this on 29/08/04 and gave it to Matt with instructions to give it to you if he ever thought you needed it.
Its primary purpose is to remind you why you let yourself in for the pain and trouble of doing your Masters. Knowing myself pretty well though there are a few things to say first- Matt’s probably been saying them and given you this as a last resort.
OK, BREATHE. This CANNOT kill you, nor can it destroy your life, or you and Matt. Nothing in the world could. Even if you fail (which you won’t) it’s not the end of the world- there are other ways into archaeology, and other jobs you’d equally enjoy.
OK, panic over. Now the sane bit needs to tell you why I’m making myself do this.
I’m only really happy when I’m stretching, striving, learning new and difficult things. This will be interesting, hard, good, and it will give me a job with those qualities too.
I didn’t really do things properly, throw myself in last time. I let myself be held back by the demon you are probably wrestling now, and that I’ve spent most of tonight fighting. This is a second chance and I’m damnwell going to do it properly.
I want a distinction, and to feel like I’ve earned it. This demon can’t destroy you. You’re going to beat it. You’re doing it/ I’m doing it because most of the time I enjoy hard work, and especially archaeology. It’s just hard to remember when you’re tired to the bone/ just got an ‘F’.
I’ll get paid better, no matter what I do.
I will have finally done something for me, on my terms, and not bottled out. And I’ll have done it knowing I worked, and deserved it. NO GIVING UP! THIS IS FOR YOU AND NO-ONE ELSE.
I’ve picked it precisely because I can’t ‘coast’ it, so yes it’s going to be hard but the inevitable (see I really think I can do it!) victory will therefore be all the sweeter.
I need to do more for ME. This is probably the most selfish thins I’ve done, but in a good way. Me & my degree have to come first. I always said they did, and then that demon got in the way. Aint gonna happen that way. I’m going to beat it and do this.
‘Cos I rock. Ask anyone- they’ll agree. Not that I need them to; I just have to convince myself.
Remember- if it wasn’t hard you’d just feel like a fraud.
And there is nothing wrong with asking for help, money or work- wise, and it doesn’t stop it being yours.
I’m blogging about it now because I could use a dose of that confidence. The second year is supposed to be the ‘difficult’ time on a PhD, and I know the first year was hard enough in places. I’ve fought those confidence demons time and again over the last year, and I know they will come back for another go before I’m done. I also have some people close to me who are embarking on some difficult things, taking their own risks this year, and I can’t help wonder if writing letters to themselves would help…
Have I written another one to help me this year? Now that would be telling 😉