I had a strange week. Let me put it more honestly; I had a bad week.

Disclaimer: I really don’t think I’m a dramatic person. That being said, I had my first panic attack this week. I say “my first”, because I always kind of assumed it was bound to happen. It’s not like I ever thought being a person who gets nervous easily, who gets scared easily, who stresses over tiny decisions, its not like I thought me being that person could escape it all finally catching up with me. But it did. And it was NOT fun. So, I’ve been analyzing over the last few days, what it could be that I’m panicked about. Because it’s never the obvious stuff. It’s that deep dark shit that we don’t talk about.

And truthfully, I don’t usually have too much deep dark unspoken, off-limits stuff, because I talk about everything. I won’t shut up about my feelings. Everyone knows how I feel about everything. Sorry about that, everyone. So, what was hiding that needed to come out so badly that I thought I was going to die? Like, literally die. This is why I needed to explain to you how I’m not a dramatic person. Because I thought this anxiety was going to kill me. Dead. I thought about what I was wearing when it happened and was like, “Ugh, I’m gonna be found in my wide leg, draw string, capri pajama pants? They are my LEAST flattering of the pajama pants. Worst death outfit ever.” And I didn’t even know what I was upset about. My heart was racing so fast it was just one long heart beat, and I’m sweating, and I’m pacing, and I’m trying to crawl out of my skin, but I don’t know how. And all the while I’m thinking to myself, I can’t think of one single thing that I’m actually upset about. There isn’t one new factor in my life that is bumming me out. No rejection from a guy, no argument with a friend, no blood test I’m waiting to hear back about…

But I think I’ve figured it out now.

There is a period of time when we are allowed a free pass. We fail a math test because we’re in eighth grade and who cares. We sleep in until noon because we’re sixteen and just leave us alone. We get lazy at work because we’re twenty-three and it’s a job we aren’t passionate about. But at a certain point, we’ve run out of free passes and we have to be accountable for every single decision we make. There is no room for error. No one is asking you what you want to be, they are asking you what you are doing. Right now. What are you doing? Are you great at it? Are you making a difference? A lot of people are doing something important. Are you? Are you productive every day? Are you always working towards something bigger?

When I was twenty-one and I voiced an opinion or perspective on something, people would say things like, “You’re so far ahead of other people your age. You’re going to be great.” But now I’m at the age where I’m supposed to be doing that great thing. Am I living up to what people expected from me? Because now is the time. And I’m always trying, I’m always pushing myself, but sometimes I just want to get back in bed and tell you to leave me alone.

This is my anxiety. Life. It’s intimidating. And I always found comfort thinking that I could put things off until they mattered. But they matter now. I have had a full time writing job for the last year, and it ends in two weeks. And the only person who can make sure the next thing I do is great, is me. So I woke up at three in the morning thinking I was dying, because I’m freaking out that I wont live up to my potential. I think that is really the key. What is YOUR potential? We are all capable of different things. We all have different degrees of ambition. I don’t dream about running the world. I don’t dream of being famous. I don’t dream of being a movie star. I dream about doing something, doing it well, and making a living at it while maintaining a reputation as someone people like. That’s it. That is my idea of success. And I spent a lot of time in my twenties looking for distractions to make sure I don’t get it. Staying in a job I didn’t care about, sleeping in, going out, boyfriends, giving up, boyfriends, taking the easy road, boyfriends…

Anxiety is a delayed affect. You do something that is easier in the immediate and you feel great. But then this little nagging feeling keeps creeping up on you. It’s like, “Hi, I know you don’t want to deal with me right now, but I just wanted you to know I’m here and I’m not going anywhere and whenever you’re ready we can do this. And if you take too long I will literally bring you to your knees.” And so that shit brought me to my damn knees.

Having the free pass early on is such a handicap. There is no real free pass. When you feel fine failing a test in school, it sets a pattern in your mind that it’s okay to fail. When you sleep the day away as a teenager it teaches you how to procrastinate. When you underperform at a job, it makes you think you don’t have to have respect for the opportunity you’ve been given. They aren’t free passes, they’re set backs. They are lessons you will have to UN-learn if you want to be a high functioning person some day. I know I want to be one. I mean, I already am one, and I want to continue being one.

But it’s all just a lot of pressure. I’m pretty sure it’s the good kind of pressure. The kind of pressure that makes you step it up. Nudges you in the right direction. And then sometimes it’s the kind that attacks you in the middle of the night and makes you want to die. I’m going to push through and not let it stop me.

Then again, I could also just marry rich. I haven’t decided yet.

Featured image via ClubPlanet