On lobsters and uncomfortable messages

While struggling with the new pressures of second year, a friend sent me a video about lobsters and growth. If you are struggling or feeling pressured, I highly recommend the 90sec story. The message of discomfort as a signal for growth has stuck with me. Now, in the final block of second year with a test tomorrow and on the road to Step, I finally feel like I’ve grown into a new shell.

I’m ready for the exam tomorrow. Or perhaps I’m not worried about the exam. There’s a great deal of material for this exam and it won’t be easy, but the subject matter is more in my ballpark: time spent at music festivals around substance use prepares you for the expressions of mental health disorders. A young man rolling too hard on MDMA and can’t sit still? Manic episode characteristic of bipolar type I. A woman who took a bunch of LSD and can’t hold a lucid conversation? The ‘positive’ psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. A fellow who has fallen face-first into the ketamine k-hole? Delirium, plain as day.

Perhaps I should be more concerned about the exam, but I feel that I’ve finally honed in on study practices that suit me well. Better late than never, right? The treadmill studying has helped my knowledge retention and my overall mood. The thirty minute walks go by quickly and re-energize my affect. I cover a great deal of material quickly while speaking out loud to myself. The walking method allows a day of studying to be a day of brisk activity, rather than a day of shoulders hunched and locked to a desk. Movement becomes studying, rather than a discrete event separated from academics.

Maybe I’m not worried about the exam because I have my perspective stretched over the next few weeks. This is just another hefty second year exam. In six days, I’m going to drive up to ATL and try to choke someone unconscious while they attempt to break my arm out of its socket. When put like that, I have trouble mustering up butterflies for a 117 multiple-choice test. I’m feeling competent in my limited toolbox of skills for the Jiu-Jitsu competition. I could know more, of course, but I can reliably execute one or two techniques from every position and I’d rather have a few trusty moves than cursory knowledge of many. My grappling stamina is high and my nerves are low.

Yesterday, I weighed myself at 170# and I must be under 168# while wearing my competition gi, which adds about 3 or 4#. In short, I’ve got some weight-cutting to do. I told myself I wouldn’t bother with trying to cut weight to make a specific division, especially for my first grappling tournament, but I’m so close to the required weight and I’d rather not wrestle fellas who have 15# on me.

Tomorrow will be a long day. Exam in the morning, then an hour of humanities, and finally doctoring until 5p. Short break, then BJJ fundamentals at 7p. Nothing I haven’t done before. I’ll probably do it again.

Growth happens slowly. Our minds change quickly, like computers and lightning. We can shift our opinion in an instant or pick up a new goal after a single conversation. Our bodies change slowly, like a green sapling. Physical growth happens over the time course of months and only becomes visible with hindsight or a careful eye.

My body has adapted to grappling, my mind has learned how to physically approach studying, and my spirits are high. I’m enjoying this bit of ease and calm, at least until the next message of discomfort strikes and I start the process of shedding my lobster skin, once again.


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