Small Victories

“I need a win today.”

I spoke those words to myself as I was driving to the train station this morning. I was running late because my printer can smell fear and decided to stop working at 6:30am. But let me go back a little.

Lately I have been feeling stagnant. I’ve felt like a half empty glass of water; parts of me constantly in movement but still never moving. I’m working two jobs but when I reach the end of the day I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. What do I have to show for my day? My week? My life?

I’m 24 and I’m living at home. Why? Because I spent the last six years studying full time. Now I work five days a week, but four of those days are unpaid because legal experience is more valuable than money for law graduates. Both jobs are in Sydney because work where I live is scarce, so every day I sit on a train for four hours. That’s my life. Working. Commuting. I spend my life on a train and yet I feel like I’m going nowhere.

Of course it’s probably just post-graduate blues – that quarter life crisis I keep hearing about. It’s not that bad, I know. Things could be worse. I know. But despite being fairly self-aware it was still getting me down.

So yesterday I applied to College of Law. Although I’m not thrilled about going back to the textbooks, a part of me was missing the passive guilt of not studying. It was progress – and progress is progress. I had finally taken a step towards completing my studies once and for all and finding my career, officially. I had a start date. I had an end date. And it felt great.

I then tried to apply for an amazing graduate position I found online. But unfortunately I needed certified ID to apply, and like most people I just don’t have that kind of thing lying around the house. Oh, and the deadline for submissions was in 24 hours. Classic Jess.

It’s amazing how just one thing can start a domino of dilemmas when you have anxiety.

Nothing was particularly dire, nothing was unfixable. But all the little things were adding up. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details, but I – like everyone – have a lot going on. And when you have so many little things building up inside you it can take just one for it feel like too much. I was stressing over so many little things that my brain wasn’t sure where to focus. It was like dodgeball, except some kid had screamed ‘MULTIBALL’ and thrown in 50 extra balls and also you’re wearing a blindfold.

So that’s how I found myself arguing with the scanner at 6:30am this morning. I finally got my ID printed and headed to the station, praying I didn’t miss my train. I had a long list of things to do in my bag along with my laptop and once I got on my train (panting and spluttering because I’d had to run to make it) I set about crossing things off.

When I arrived at work I was greeted with some positive feedback from one of my supervisors. And it was like the start of better things, because after that one small victory things started to look up. Life wasn’t so bad. I was able to keep crossing off the many tasks from my to-do list, and was receiving great feedback from my managers and peers. I got my ID certified. I submitted my application. And every single one of those little things throughout my day felt like a win.

Sometimes it’s just about how you frame things. I was really down and stressed out. But because I celebrated my little victories and recognised my accomplishments – even small ones – I was able to get through the day. Now I’m on the train home and I feel like I’m moving.

Don’t downplay your successes. Don’t tell yourself it’s not a big deal. Don’t tell yourself it was nothing. Own it and embrace all your successes.

I often hear that our generation was coddled growing up; that all these participation awards were bad for our work ethic and set unrealistic expectations for the ‘real world.’ Well the real world is rough. It’s really, really rough. It can get you down for big reasons and for little reasons, and sometimes nobody will be in your corner but you. And that’s why you have to celebrate yourself. Pat yourself on the back when you finish your to-do list. Be proud of yourself for getting through a rough day. Give yourself a break, because the world probably won’t do it for you.

It’s okay to need small victories every now and then. So let yourself have them.