Off the beat: Getting through the rut

I was walking through Sproul Plaza on Monday, attempting to blaze through the hordes of flierers to get to the peace and quiet of my apartment. It had been a rough week — a rough week in the middle of a rough month in the middle of a rough semester. And as I sped through Sproul, I didn’t want to talk to anyone — but someone talked to me. Yoshua, as I’ve come to know him, looked at me and said, “You need to get out of that rut you’re in.”

Maybe he could sense my stress. I was definitely giving off that vibe — I didn’t have time for anyone or anything, and it showed on my face. Maybe he said that to everyone who walked past him that day. Or maybe he was talking to the kid behind me. However it happened, what he said stuck. And I’ve been churning it over in my mind since.

I’ve always been the kind of person who steps back from challenging situations. It could be because I’m scared, but I just think it’s because I grew up being told things should be easy for me. In elementary school, I was the smart kid in class. I wasn’t expected to ask for help, and I didn’t expect myself to need it. If I didn’t get it right away, I didn’t try to get it at all. The patience I had for others extended nowhere near myself, and I conditioned myself to stop wanting things if I found they were too difficult to obtain.

That pattern continued into high school and college. I talk myself into putting off that seemingly impossible essay for another hour of Netflix or skipping a tedious lecture to relax on Memorial Glade, usually to avoid the risk of failure that comes with challenging myself. I turn back into my fourth-grade self — the one who was too embarrassed to ask how to convert pints into quarts into gallons, so she chose to “forget” her homework at home rather than admit she couldn’t do it on the first try.

As I’ve learned over the course of my life, though, and especially this semester, at one point, the option to run away from your problems disappears. I wish I was still stressing out over converting quarts to gallons, so I could just use Google converter and be done with it — what a life that would be.

But that isn’t the case for me anymore. When your responsibilities change drastically without warning, there’s nothing to do but tackle them head-on. When it seems like your relationships are failing and you feel isolated, there’s no better way to deal with it than by being honest about it. And when it honestly, thoroughly feels like you’re going through hell, the only way out is through.

That’s the rut: It feels like hell. It’s when you get tunnel-vision and close your eyes to the world around you just to get through that next paper, the next midterm, the next week of classes. You ignore the need for down time and relaxation, just so you can handle your extra responsibilities. The rut sucks. Especially for me, the girl who used to jump out of the rut the minute she sensed she was in it. It’s beyond difficult to accept that you want something, to fight for it, and, maybe, to fail miserably. The rut can wear you down.

But that’s exactly the feeling I was missing before this semester. I never wanted to feel worn out, so I avoided the rut at all costs. I didn’t want to suffer disappointment, so I took myself out of striving for things I knew I wanted. I didn’t want to feel confused, so I’d given up on AP Calculus and told myself it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Who knows, maybe if I had tried harder in math class, I’d be an electrical engineering and computer sciences major on my way to a lucrative tech job instead of a history major on my way to an “Eat, Pray, Love”-kind of 20s. I backed away from anything that threatened the calm, complacent life I was living.

This semester, I didn’t have the choice to get out of the rut. I was stuck in it, for better or for worse, and it’s made me stronger. The lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the work I’ve done — it’s all worth it. And I’ve made a decision: no more avoiding challenges. No more putting things off. No more getting out of what promises to improve me and, ultimately, inspire me.

So, Yoshua: I won’t get out of this rut I’m in. I’ll get through it.

“Off the Beat” guest columns will be written by Daily Cal staff members until the summer semester’s regular opinion writers are selected.

Contact Simone Rudolf-Dib at [email protected].