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Overly Ambitious: Lessons from Doing Too Much

HHello! I’m officially back from my hiatus! Thanks for your patience with me. If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that I was dealing with I-took-on-way-too-much-itis. Symptoms include stress-eating, tears, procrastination, and the urge to curse people out. Treatment is getting ish done.

Now that I’m finished with the craziness that was March and had some time to reflect, I have some thoughts about why I took on too much in the first place and how I’m going to avoid that in the future. Let’s talk about FOMO (fear of missing out), unrealistic expectations, and the dreaded P-word: priorities (dun, dun, dun).


When I started grad school, all these opportunities came at once. Employment? Yes, please! Extracurricular learning opportunities? I’ll take a couple of those. Grad school social groups? Heck yeah.

Because I was underemployed and all hot and bothered about wanting more out of my life & education than I was currently getting, I went into hustle mode. I was going to grab everything that came my way, network my non-existent butt off, and come out of grad school ready for a good job. Hunty, I was on fire and no one was going to stop me! So I grabbed pretty much every opportunity that came my way without realizing how much time or energy I’d have to put into everything. I just figured that I’d somehow manage it, which is a pretty bad time management plan.

Related: How I Manage My Time: Organization for the Naturally Disorganized

The thing that prompted me to grab everything in one fell, unwise swoop was this nagging sense that if I passed on these opportunities I might never get them again. In fact, I might not get any opportunities as good as these again. I was concerned that missing out at this point might have some pretty ugly long-term consequences (like finishing grad school without being truly employable), so I just acted like I didn’t have a prefrontal cortex and just took everything I was offered.

So why did I feel this way? I blame it on…

…Unrealistic Expectations

Before I turned 25, I was in this epic rush to get things done. I felt like I needed to blitz through school because I somehow picked up this sparkly vision of what my twenties were supposed to be like, and it did not involve being a broke student who was holed up in the library all day. It was supposed to involve happy hour drinks with my friends, wearing cute outfits that I could actually afford, and chatting about the gorgeous but also terrible guys I’m dating over coffee in an instagrammable coffee shop. Not sleeping for two hours at night because I’ve left a paper way too long and resisting the urge to cry at the amount of thesis revisions I have to do. What’s that saying? Humans make plans and God laughs? Joke’s on me, haha.

Beyond the sparkles, there are all these personal development people and motivational speakers talking about hustling: #riseandgrind and all that jazz. My inner workaholic  loves that stuff, the sleep-deprived, clenched-buttcheeks old gal. So of course I bought into it and tried to do the most. I felt like I needed to be making money, not paying a school thousands of dollars to do (school) work. I felt like I was hustling backwards.

I blame reality TV, Instagram, baseless hype, and last but not least, my own lack of critical thinking. But now that I have more slightly more life experience, common sense, and years under my belt, I can see that everybody has their own unique life paths. Some people’s 20s might look like an Instagram dream, and other people’s might be a bit more…muddy. Now that I’m 25 and not feeling like I need to accomplish things faster than Black Panther’s box office ascent, I look at things differently:

I can see that there is value in following my path. When I'm focused on that, I can be realistic. And being realistic about what life should be like right now is a good way to be content; even when things are tough.Related: 6 Goals For the Second Half of My Twenties

The solution: priorities

So yes, I survived (thanks, God). But I now have an overarching sense that I probably never want to do this again. Taking on too many things is a dangerous game. It’s like juggling with too many balls. So while there is the possibility that I’ll be able to juggle them all, there is also the possibility that I’ll end up dropping one ball, multiple balls, or the whole set. And since we’re talking about real life and not a circus act, “dropping the ball” can mean things like getting fired, failing a class, or leaving a bad impression with someone who can influence my future outcomes. And if no balls are dropped, that’s awesome (and a miracle, if you ask me), but what about other things? What about my spiritual, mental, and physical health? What about my relationships? What about the other things in my life that I need to attend to?

Girl, we all get the same 24 hours in a day.

So the biggest lesson I’ve probably gotten from Messy March is that both time and energy are limited and important. Being young and chronically disorganized probably made me miss the memo on that one, but realizing that I can’t scrounge up some extra time and energy when I’m faced with a long to-do list is a very rude awakening. I felt truly limited, and guess what? There wasn’t a single solitary thing I could do about it, because of friggin’ physics and biology.

Adulting spoiler: basically, I can’t do everything I want to all the time. #womp

So what’s a girl to do? Realizing that I didn’t have the time or energy to do the things I had to do made me realize that I needed to take a good, hard look at the things that aren’t truly important to me. And having to jettison things that are important to me, like dating, because I was stuck doing things that I had committed to but didn’t really care about or even like also gave me some food for thought (or should I say constipation?). Basically, I’m having to decide what matters to me and what doesn’t, which is harder and more nasty-feeling than pretending that everything matters. It’s hard decision time, folks.

I’m still in the process of separating the wheat from the chaff, as the good old Bible says, but I have learned that I increasingly don’t have time, energy, or general wherewithal for things that I don’t really need or want to do. What is even the point of stuff like that, besides making me really, really irritated?

So while I’m trying to sort out what’s really important to me, can you help me out? Tell me:

How did you figure out your priorities?


Image via Lacie Slezak @ Unsplash

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8 comments on “Overly Ambitious: Lessons from Doing Too Much

  1. Pingback: Active Dreaming and the Art of Getting Ish Done – Driftyness

  2. Hey Girl!!! Welcome Back!!!!!! Wow, I agree with my denim heaven, you really did learn alot in that span of time and it could be the fact that you just turned 25 too. I’m a firm believer in “wisdom comes with age bit” Lord knows, I’m still getting that big “W” every time I hit another one. I think you’re on the right track of managing your priorities, I agree with you when you said “You have to figure out what’s important and what’s not” and as you stated, while that may be an icky feeling because we want all things in our life to be on the front burner, it’s also a quick way to through a match on gasoline; can somebody say “Firestarter!” – I’ve had to come to the conclusion that while my mind wants to make everything a priority, my Psychey can’t take it….we have to figure out what’s going to get us moving forward and not backwards or keep us standing still. Some things may have to hit the back-burner and it’s OKAY, but we’re humans not octopuses and we have to do the things that provides the best outcome for us. Glad you’re back! xoxo

    • Hey Roshonda! Thank you for such a warm welcome 🙂 You’re too good at putting a smile on my face! Right? It’s like a switch flipped in my head when I turned a quarter century. Haha, I love that: “we’re humans not octopuses.” Such a clever way to tell the truth! When would you say you figured your priorities out (or at least got the hang of it)?

      • Hey Girl! Glad I could put a smile on someone’s face…lol. Girlfriend, let me tell ya – I’m still getting those priorities in order even in my late I really do feel as though as we age we learn more and more things about ourselves and that learning/wisdom helps us to prioritize our life (what’s important and what’s not) we don’t get it and the rest of our life we’re prioritized proof, it’s an ever spinning wheel that we constantly have to adjust. At least that’s my two cents and I’m sticking with it…lol.

        • I had a feeling I was going to get an answer like that lol! I like silver bullet answers, but I suppose that’s not how life works. I guess it’s good to get the hang of prioritizing now, so at least I’m not having to learn how to do it as I get older!

          • LOL LOL! Well….lol. Yes girl, what we learn to master when we’re younger will be less of a headache when you get older – they will still be there but you’ll know how to handle it, that way you can focus on other things of priority.

  3. I’m glad you’re back and not without lessons. You really learnt a whole lot but I must say most of the internal pressure to make it in life or make more money is because of the influence of social media pressure. I have spoken to people well above my age and really established in their different career paths and they’ve told me to take it slow. Excess pressure would lead you to depression and ultimately you’d be unmotivated to pit in any energy. I’ve learnt to take it one step at a time and also to enjoy the process because it would form my testimony in the future.

    • Thanks for the warm welcome 🙂 Yes, social media is a tricky one since it’s everywhere! I think you got great advice & I think it’s awesome that you’ve gotten perspectives from people older than you. They wouldn’t have had social media around and they’ve actually gotten established. Even though I’ve come across younger people who give great advice, there’s something about life experience! Funny how I’m just learning that now, you couldn’t tell me anything when I was younger 😋

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