The first wonders if they are working hard enough for their parents. Their parents have done so much to get them this far, and they would hate to disappoint their parents.
The second wonders if they are doing enough to reach their full potential. When they try to relax, they can’t help but feel like they are wasting away their life.
The third wonders if they are doing enough for the world. They wonder how they could do more to affect greater change.
Yet another wonders if they were enough for their significant other. They lament, wondering if being more, if being better, would have made the relationship last.
Their stories are too familiar, too relatable.
Some of these stories are my stories.
After arriving at Duke, I took a break. It was uncomfortable and different and I constantly had to justify all of my decisions.
"Holding less commitments and lower expectations will facilitate my transition to college. I won’t be stressed to the point of tears this year. After all this time breaking my back over pursuing a fulfilling high school experience that would translate well into a college application, a break is overdue. It’s perfectly acceptable not to join any clubs. It’s perfectly acceptable to let go of my attachment to straight A’s. It’s okay to have free time and blank spaces in my planner. Spending time socializing is fun and will help you later down the road. I can sacrifice my sleep for deep talks with friends. This will make me ready for next year. I will know exactly what I want to join next year, and I’ll be better able to manage my time. This is going to be worth it."
And it was. It was all worth it, but, more than once, I found myself forgetting the value in giving myself a break. Bouts of negativity, sometimes entirely random, sometimes resulting from not-so-harmless curiosities, would have me doubt my little self-care project.
"I should have studied more. I should have run for a leadership position. I should have at least joined a club. I should have tried to work in a lab instead of the library. I shouldn’t have taken this class just because it sounded fun. I shouldn't be happy with this grade. This grade will ruin my GPA and any chances of a good career. My resume is going to be so empty. I should go to office hours and FLUNCH my professors and brainstorm smart questions to ask in class. I should say something in class. Why don’t I speak in class? I can’t afford anything other than A’s. I need to build a rapport with my professors. I need a good resume. I should camp out in the library. I should read more and write more and know more. I shouldn’t spend this much time with friends. I should stay on campus to study instead of going home for breaks. Relaxing is an unproductive way to spend my time. College tuition for one year is a lot, why am I wasting it?. What if I can’t get a good job? What if I can’t help my parents? What if my niece and nephew can’t look to me as a good example? What if I could be volunteering my time somehow instead? I could definitely do more. Why aren’t I doing more? I’m not doing enough."
“Enough.” It comes up, again.
More than a couple of people have felt like they aren’t enough. I’ve felt like I’m not enough. Enough for what, though?
Enough for relationships? Enough for our family? Enough for ourselves? Enough for the world?
Maybe. But what happens when our pursuits to become “enough” for our relationships with others, in the eyes of our parents, in our own eyes… what happens when those threaten our health? What if this preoccupation with becoming “enough” leads to us not being happy enough and not being healthy enough? Will the A’s, our parents’ pride in us, a significant other’s affection, or a successful career be worth the tears, the anxiety attacks, the strained relationships?
A teacher once told my class, “I know that you can do anything, but that doesn’t mean that you should do everything.”
It seems as if we only feel like we’re enough when we do everything, but that’s hardly true. We have to remind ourselves often, that we are certainly enough. I am certainly enough. You are certainly enough.