Are You Enough?: A Reflection on 2019

I have mixed feelings about New Years. Every December, as the year comes to an end, we inevitably reflect on the things we’ve experienced and the things we hope to change. Weight loss is always a major topic on many people’s minds, including my own. As a medical student, I of course think about the progress I’ve made towards becoming a doctor. I also obsessively confront the “what have I accomplished this year?” dilemma. As I get older, I have found that, with the end of every year, I become more and more disappointed with my accomplishments (or, really, the lack thereof); this is where my mixed feelings concerning New Years stems from. While I appreciate that the season evokes reflection that encourages personal growth, such reflection always leads me towards feelings of disappointment and failure. I’m not sure if my sentiments are universal or if they’re unique to people with overly critical personalities like my own. Regardless, what I’m wondering now, as we near a decade of New Year’s resolutions is this: even when we meet all our goals, resolve our resolutions, and achieve all our dreams will we ever find ourselves in that idyllic state of mind where we feel that we are enough?

Last year, my New Year’s resolutions included the following: 1.) Lose 15 lbs, 2.) Read 10 books 3.) Start writing again and 4.) Score a 245 on STEP1. At this time, 2 days before the end of 2019, I have lost 0 lbs, read only 2 books, written 0 personal essays, and did not score a 245 on STEP1. In short, I have met none of my New Year’s resolutions from last year. What else can I do with this reflection besides interpret it as failure, especially when, at the time I was making the resolutions, I felt that the goals were really a low ball estimate of my potential? How can I have fallen so short of my goals? Am I really a failure? As I consider these questions, which plague my mind every December, I swiftly spiral into a self-hating rampage in which I convince myself that I am an unaccomplished, fat, stupid failure who should just stop trying and come to terms with my subpar life. This year’s self-hating ritual felt particularly bad, which prompted me to take a hard look at who I am and what I’ve done over the past 10 years of my life.

After calming down a bit, I can now see that these past 10 years were filled with academic and personal milestones – graduating from high school, moving away from home for the first time, running my first half-marathon, graduating from Texas A&M magna cum laude, getting into medical school, publishing my first scientific paper, taking and passing my first medical board examination. And, most importantly, when I think about who I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish 10 years ago, I am exactly where I hoped to be – in medical school, with published research under my belt, surrounded by loved ones who truly care about my well-being. Objectively speaking, I’ve done pretty well over the past 10 years, so why do these feelings of failure and self-loathing persist? I think the answer to this question ultimately answers the question of whether or not we will ever feel that we are enough.

Simply put – I do not think that I will ever feel that I am enough. I imagine that many other people feel this way, even those who lack my judgmental nature. If you’re reading this, and you think to yourself, “I am no where near where I wanted to be 10 years ago,” know that that doesn’t really matter. I am exactly where I hoped to be 10 years ago and I still feel like I am not enough. What this tells me is that we will never reach that state of satiety, that feeling of enough-ness no matter how much we achieve. But I don’t think that means we should stop trying. This desire to reach higher, to be better, is probably what keeps us going despite all the turmoil life throws at us. These past 10 years, I’ve struggled to find contentment, but, for the next 10 years of my life, I hope to embrace my restlessness. Thus, my New Year’s resolution for 2020 is to accept the paradox that we should continue to make resolutions with the understanding that there will be no resolution. Life, by its very definition, cannot be resolved because resolution implies an end which would, of course, mean death. I realize that I’m rambling now, but I guess what I’m ultimately saying is that it really isn’t important for us to feel like we are enough; what’s important is that we continue to reach for that feeling. So, despite my mixed feelings about New Years, I know that I’ll always be here at the end of every year, reflecting on what I’ve done and striving to feel like I am enough.    

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