Earlier this month, I took my last ever undergraduate exam. It’s taken me eight years to get to this point and it’s hard to believe I’ll officially be a graduate in a few weeks’ time. I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have had the means to finish my degree with the Open University as well as the support of my partner and other people around me. Without them I would never have got to this point.
Yet, as much as I disliked the pressure of revising for my final exams, it didn’t half keep me busy. I don’t do well when I’m not busy.
Again, I’m very lucky that I’m not in a position where I have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, rendering free time an impossible luxury. However, having a lot of unstructured time and a lot of things that I could or should do, but aren’t urgent or for the benefit of someone else, means I need to have a lot of discipline in creating structure. My difficulties in doing this could be seen as a mental health problem or a personality trait, but either way it’s something I need to work on. It’s also helpful to remember I’m not alone – if I were, there would be a lot fewer self-help books published.
For now, here’s what I’m doing.
Reconnecting with hobbies
I finished a book the other day. A whole book! And I’m knitting a scarf, because those things take so long you have to start them in summer. I have even watched several films without having an anxiety attack about all the work I should be doing instead.
Preparing to job-hunt
I’ve been offered a part-time science communication job for the summer holidays and I’m going to start applying for full-time jobs in July. I recently attended a group job interview that ended in failure and made me question whether I should try to change my personality to be more extroverted or accept my limitations. Having grown up being told I wasn’t talkative, outgoing or ‘normal’ enough, I’ve done a lot of work to try and shift my mindset, only to find out my family may have been right all along. Ah well – at the very least, the job I’m doing over the summer will involve training in the more performative aspects of science communication, so maybe I’ll learn how to fake it ’til I make it.
(Still) using Todoist
When I started using Todoist I didn’t think it would last very long – I’ve tried lots of productivity tools that didn’t stick. However, it’s been almost a year now and I’m still using it every day, slowly adapting it to my needs. I’ve found it invaluable for recurring tasks, particularly in conjunction with a labelling system that separates out tasks according to how long they take, so I have no excuse for not doing that thing I know will take me less than five minutes and save me a lot more in the long run. However, I’ve been less successful in using Todoist to work towards personal projects such as writing more, redoing this website or learning new things. I think part of the reason why is that there’s so much I want to do that I get overwhelmed and do nothing, so having a way to prioritise things and turn nebulous goals into concrete actions will help.
I started getting CBT a few months ago and it seems to have had an impact already – I’m having fewer flashbacks and am ruminating less, despite going through a stressful period with the exams. I’m still not one hundred percent there yet, but I am a lot more aware of the cognitions that have resulted from my childhood experiences and the behaviours I’ve developed to cope. I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over being abused, but hopefully it won’t always rule my life in the way it has done so far.
Because people keep telling me I should do this and it sure beats the dark playground.