Personal growth is a funny thing.
Trying to be mindful of it while it’s actually happening is akin to trying to watch grass grow. It doesn’t seem like anything is happening while it’s happening . . . but when you watch a time-lapse of it or see a before and after picture the changes are glaringly obvious. In the same way, it’s not by watching the second hand that we can see and appreciate the changes in ourselves, but in looking back across a span of time.
One of the features that FaceBook has rolled out in recent times is the presentation of FaceBook “memories” – posts that you made on the same date, in previous years. This feature has been met with some mixed reviews .After all, who honestly wants to be reminded of the exact day their dog died when they happen to be on a beach holiday? Or, on the other hand, who wants to see how thrilled they were in the early days of their relationship with the person they’re about to divorce?
Still, it can be interesting to look back at what you were posting about three, four, or even five years ago.
Two weeks ago, one of my “memories” was a post from five years ago. In it, I talked about being overwhelmed by the thought of working 45 hours in a week and related that my boss at the time must think of me as some sort of super-girl. I was stressed out.
Reading it when it popped up, I laughed, because I’d just worked six days straight for a total of about 65 hours. I pointed it out to my other, who I’d been with at the time. He laughed – both at the drama of the original post and at my own amusement with it.
Now, it’s Monday and I’m taking a day off from both of my current jobs. I wasn’t scheduled to work at the hospital, which means that I was scheduled to work at the call center. I texted my boss there and let her know that I wouldn’t be coming in due to general mental/physical/emotion exhaustion.
I worked seven days last week for a grand total of just over 75 hours – four days at the hospital doing 12.5 hour shifts and the others at the call center doing nearly the same.
This morning, I woke up with the intention of going to work, even though everyone – including my mother, co-workers at both places, and SO – told me to take the day off.
Then, I cried, because we’re out of peanut butter. And again, because I dropped a sock.
I recognized that I reached my limit, for the time being. I required time to recharge. I poured a bowl of Reece’s puffs and watched HGTV for a couple hours. I read a little. I cleared out my email and finally sorted through all of my hospital orientation paperwork. I ate some chocolate. I’m writing this blog post.
I thought, “The me of five years ago would have had a full blown anxiety attack at the mere mention of working 75 hours in a week. I pushed my limits by doing it, but I now know that I can do it, if I really need to. I also know that I don’t want to do it.”
Limitations are strange things. They can be shifted by choice, by chance, and by necessity . . . but it’s been my experience that most people wait until necessity demands.
Personal growth and shifting limitations are like two sides of the same coin . . . you don’t have one without embracing the other. Growth is change, but it’s a type of change that is almost unanimously seen as positive. Shifting limitations also denote change, but the connotation can range from wonderfully awe-inspiring to depressingly constrictive. One is upward and outward, but the other could be that or could be downward and inward.
I’d never gave these things much thought, until recently, but then I realized that I thought of limitations as being synonymous with boundaries. I also viewed both rather negatively. Not as obstacles that could be challenged or even overcome, but as virtually inescapable boxes that I found myself locked within. Other, stronger individuals might find it within themselves to beat against the boxes until they broke or more intelligent people could find ways to exploit weaknesses in the construction . . . but I, having a primarily docile and contented nature would merely daydream about what may be beyond the box and not about how to leave it.
In fact, while imagining what might exist beyond the box was as good a pass-time as any, the thought of actually leaving the box was nothing short of terrifying. Because, while I may think spectacular things were outside of it, there could also be incredibly dangerous things. Even the process of getting out of the box could be painful and exhausting.
However . . . at some point in the past month that belief has shifted. Almost entirely due to one question that I’ve found myself asked by my co-workers at the hospital.
“Why did you decide to choose working in a hospital?”
I answered without thinking, the first time.
“Because personal growth is a good thing,” I said.
Later, I wondered why I’d said that. I mean, yes, I thought it was true. Growth is good, after all. Personal growth must, by default, also be good. But . . . growth also means pushing limits and boundaries, right? Is that what I’m doing? Did I do that by becoming a nurse, even thought the thought of the responsibilities involved made me feel nauseous? Am I still doing that by deciding to work in a hospital, even though I’d probably feel more comfortable in a nice, quiet doctor’s office or clinic?
. . . well . . . I guess I must be . . . right?
Right. Which means, in sum, that I am pushing my limits and finding new ones and becoming a “better” person for it all. It also means that, contrary to my usual way of thinking, limitations and boundaries aren’t boxes that I can never leave.
They are, actually, more like obstacles on a course. Or, in my nerdy brain, like quests in a video game. Both of which may be challenging to get through – maybe even brutal – but which lead to a two-fold outcome, most of the time. That outcome being 1) feelings of achievement/greater abilities/more experience and 2) the possibility of facing greater challenges/finding a new course or quest altogether.
My life doesn’t have to take place inside an indestructible box.
It can take place on a map and I can decide what turns to take and whether or not to abandon the path altogether for a time and if I want to stop to rest for a while.