Imagine that you are a fishing net.
You fling yourself into the ocean and after being pulled back to your boat’s side, you find that you caught a decent amount of fish. Because you’re the fishing net, you can feel how stretched out you are, and you can feel it in your body and in your skin. It’s not discomforting, but you still recognize the effort it takes to contain all of the fish that you’ve caught.
You throw yourself back into the ocean and want to catch more fish, so you do, but as you return to the boat’s side to see what you’ve caught, you realize that you feel a lot more strained because you’ve stretched yourself out more to catch more fish, and it takes more effort to hold those fish. The holes in your netting become a lot wider and stretch to its limits. Some fish even nearly escape your grasp. The stretch in your netting to hold this huge amount of fish in place is nearly unbearable. It’s suffocating, straining, and draining, and all you want to do is let go of all of the fish.
For the last catch, you throw yourself out into the water once more, but this time, you’re a little tired and don’t have as much energy, so you aim to catch a smaller amount of fish. You come to the boat’s side and feel a lot more put together, especially in comparison to that bigger haul earlier, because you don’t have as much fish to contain. The holes in your netting are a lot smaller and your lines are closer together. Yet, you don’t feel as content as the other two catches because you feel like you could have caught more.
This seems like a silly analogy, but I thought of this when thinking about the friendships, relationships, and involvements that I currently have and have been trying so hard to juggle this school year.
I am the fishing net, and the fish are all of these things that I just mentioned, that I hold so dear to my heart: AMP, the Cross-Cultural Center, Tennis Club, my hall, my close friends here at UCI, my close friends from back home. As much as I want to make more friends, meet different types of people, and explore interests that I’ve quelled before in the past, I try to do too much at once. I stretch myself too thin, to the point where I’ve left holes — gaps in already existing friendships and smaller friendships and involvements to slip away — in my skin. The thrill and satisfaction in fostering these new connections is short-lived, and before I realize its temporary nature, I let it deteriorate my energy, time, and state of mind until it’s unbearable and all I want to do is let go of everything, even of the things that have always been good to me. The strain is suffocating, barely livable, and all I want to do is give up and break my silent frustration with myself with a scream.
I am torn between wanting to develop new friendships with different people and wanting to delve deeper into already existing friendships and involvements; two desires that I simply can’t have both of — or at least, not both to the same extent.
Every time I ask to hang out with a new friend for the first time ever, every time I start talking to someone new in a club, every time I neglect the people and spaces I’ve always been a part of to spend time with others I’ve only begun to get to know better, every time I’m finally home after spending time with new friends and question if it was really worth it, I’m not sure if meeting new people is worth stretching myself too thin. I wonder if I could have used that time getting to know someone to instead spend time with my close friends or actively practice self-care. But even with how much I ponder these thoughts, I can’t bring myself to take it easier to a normal level, let alone even lower than that.
The problem, when put lightly, just sounds like I’m overreacting about making and maintaining friendships, but it’s so much more than that, especially when you live on a college campus and friends are all you’re surrounded by — but you have to pick and choose which to keep.
The solution seems obvious, but as silly as it sounds, I get caught up in the excitement of catching more fish and making new friendships with people whose lives I thought I’d never get even a glimpse of.
It’s a work in progress, and just like how I never know how to end these pieces, I never know when is too much and when I’m stretching myself too thin and leaving too many holes in myself. I know that this piece sounds a little lacking in terms of an ending, but I am writing this impulsively at the wee hours of the night instead of doing homework or studying for finals because there is nothing I want more than to come to terms with how I feel about this, and I feel like I can’t do much else until I do.
I couldn’t push this feeling off for much longer than I already have been, and this is a step forward. Towards what, I’m not exactly sure and can’t put into words, and to be honest, this is the hardest piece/story that I’ve written and shared. But I hope you can catch on.