I hide behind platitudes — the loftier the better.
“It is what it is…What’s done is done…Everything happens for a reason…Such is life.”
Tired, overused, empty. But they’re appealing to me because they’re comforting…not really for their message, but rather for the belief that I’m still in a place where I can pretend my lofty, empty platitude can patch me up or make things okay. But there’s another platitude (that does ring true, painfully sometimes) that I know, because it has been repeated to me many times by mother for as long as I can remember. Roughly translated from Chinese, it goes “Lying to yourself is the most damaging thing you can do to yourself.”
Lately I’ve come to think that I lie to myself a lot. I tell myself that this weekend I’ll be more productive. I tell myself I’ll have more discipline in the coming week. That I’ll stop spending too much time on things that require less attention, and I’ll prioritize better. That I’ll study regularly for all my classes and not cram, even for the easy classes because then I can build generally better study habits.
Has any of that happened? Definitely some of it. But if I were to hold myself accountable to a level of honesty that would actually foster self-improvement, I would know that I am not achieving to my potential. If I were honest with myself, I would admit to complacency. When I am questioned about what my purpose is right now, I draw a blank. I’m afraid to answer. I can’t answer the question because truthfully I’ve been checking off a list of items and ticking boxes without truly evaluating my goals for what they entail for me. And that’s a slippery slope away from self-actualization; it’s losing sight of what I wanted or think I wanted. I don’t want to be honest with myself or question anything I do, because that requires actual confrontation of doubts and conflicts and the possibility of being wrong, and that’s terrifying.
It’s not that I’m unaware of my faults. It’s that I’m unwilling to confront them — and until I do, I know that I cannot grow. I’m immature, defensive, stubborn, and overly competitive, both with others and myself. I insist that I don’t want to be understood, don’t want to parse words about what’s meaningful and what’s not —because I’m afraid at what might result. Instead of addressing my faults, I’ve spent much time steeling myself from dissent, indignant to challenges of my purpose, because I don’t want to be challenged. I’ve blanketed myself with platitudes because they protect me from harsh realities, and that’s a problem I know I must address.
These are things that I must ruminate over alone. I have internalized a specific career path for a very long time in an attempt to keep myself focused, but I have neglected to hold my level of honesty to an acceptable standard when it comes to introspection and working to grow as a person. To many people, I am a series of numbers that signify scores and potential. I have to be more than that, at the very least to myself. I have to discard platitudes and seek a meaningful purpose beyond being a number. I never wanted to be someone who purely resides in the physical world.
If I put these words down, truly confront these truths so that I’m as honest as my mother has always encouraged me to be. I think then I will be better, freer, with the conviction to act of my own volition rather than crossing off items on a list.
The way is long but you can make it easy on me / And the mother we share will never keep our cold hearts from calling… ♪♫♪
(The Mother We Share – CHVRCHES)
Sarah Lee is a senior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.