Uphill Starts
Emma Oulton

Self-Sabotage Made Me Do It

“Starting over” has become quite an interesting and familiar concept for me, but I’ve been thinking it’s just about time to start something and stick with it for the long haul.

I should begin by saying that I’ve always envisioned myself going to University and striving for excellence — or at least passing credits — all the way to graduation. Things didn’t seem to go according to plan. Instead, here I am, 5 years, 3 programs and 2 schools later, still starting over. 
 It began with recurring confusion on what I thought I wanted to study. At first, it seemed to make sense: I simply didn’t know what I wanted to do. But the more I blundered on, the more I realized that what I thought was “confusion” was actually a form of sabotage. Unbeknownst to me, I had become the puppeteer of my own demise.

There I was, an hour before a final exam that I hadn’t studied for, YouTubing how to make gluten-free banana bread. Instead of writing essays, I was having brunch dates with my roommate and ogling over my latte art, or losing myself on Pinterest deciding which hair colour I wanted next. I would do anything to distract myself from my obligations, which seemed far too daunting and nearly impossible to tackle. 
 Self-sabotage creeped up on me, masqueraded by my daily behaviours and routine. It became my most embodied habit, and whenever one thing didn’t “work out,” I was all too happy to move onto something new and exciting. 
 I’ve come to realize that I have a love-hate relationship with the idea of starting over. The notion of a fresh start and a new beginning never fails to enthuse me and fill me with optimism. It’s as though I’m promising myself a better outcome next time. I would extensively research new programs, call schools, scour websites and read every course description I could find, thinking, this time things will be different. New beginnings were exhilarating to me.

However, several New Beginning’s later, I’ve begun to deeply resent myself, wallowing in regret about how I reached this point yet again. I’ve consented to a tiresome rotation of emotional despair: Start, Quit, Start Again.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t allow myself to get too far past the initial starting point because after the start comes the hard part: the commitment. For someone who can barely commit to a TV show, a semester’s worth of classes seems almost impossible. I would have five assignments due in a week, and instead of doing them, I would panic and watch the time pass before my eyes. I would go as far as to find loopholes for submitting late assignments, or skipping them all together, which, if calculated, took more time than the assignments themselves. I even put myself dangerously close to academic probation for recycling and re-dating a doctor’s note (on more than one occasion). Alternatively, I would profess a sob story to a professor in hopes of acquiring their sympathy. All of this, even after I had finally found classes that made me happy. Something wasn’t adding up. 
 I was psychologically holding myself back from anything beyond the start for fear of what followed. The little voice inside my head told me that I was not capable of handling it, and the trouble is, I whole-heartedly believed it. I was, and continue to be, blatantly petrified of my own success. Looking back, never did I think a banana bread recipe could so accurately reflect my state of self-worth.

Despite everything, I must applaud myself for reaching the first step — recognizing my behaviour and its patterns. Though I often wonder if I’d be happier in an ignorant state of bliss, I continue to soldier on to try and figure out why I’m sabotaging myself to begin with. Why am I scared to see myself move beyond the start? And what will it take to end the cycle?

Starting over has plagued me with some struggle and self doubt, but all the while it has given me a pathway to self-discovery, and that is something valuable. So here’s to starting over, however many reasons you may have to do it and however many times it takes it takes to get where you’re going. As long as you find yourself along the way, starting over just might be worth it.

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