Dangerous Daydreams

Whenever I am faced with a new possibility or an important decision, thinking about it extensively tends to bring about more harm than good. I either obsess over everything that could potentially go wrong, or I obsess over everything that could potentially go right. Surprisingly, the latter is the more dangerous of the two.

Take this recent job application, for example. As soon as I hit the “submit” button on the electronic application, my mind immediately started to sprint through every possible bad outcome: Am I even qualified for this job? Are they going to just look at my application and laugh? They’re probably going to just throw my application away. What if they already hired someone and just forgot to take the posting down? Did I even apply for the right position, or did I accidentally complete the application for another job? This is not a realistic possibility at all, so I shouldn’t have even bothered to apply. The list could go on and on.

In order to talk myself off the ledge of self-doubt, so to speak, I had to do a little bit of confidence boosting: Of course I’m qualified for this job. I meet all of the minimum requirements and the majority of the preferred requirements. This is work that I know and love. They’re not going to laugh at my application. The email notification from HR confirms that I applied for the right position. Since I am well-qualified, this is a realistic possibility. If I don’t get a callback, then I’ll know that this just wasn’t the right job at the right time. After all, I could never get the job if I didn’t take the risk and apply for it in the first place!  

This strategy works well…for a minute or two. Then, instead of reversing back into denial, my mind suddenly does an illegal u-turn into the “what if” scenarios: Well, if I get this job, I won’t have to apply to PhD programs this year. I might not have to apply to programs ever. I won’t have to move away from my family, my friends, or my boyfriend. I would be making good money with good benefits. I could still live at home a year, pay off my car, make good headway on my student loans, and then move anywhere I wanted to in the area. I would have an office all to myself. I could hang my diplomas in my office! What kind of frames would I put them? And so the madness continues, ranging from considering the sense of security and fulfillment a full-time job would bring, clear down to what kinds of forms I would use. The more out-of-control my thoughts run, the more dangerous they become. After all, the more excited I get, the more I can visualize myself in that position, the more disappointed I will be if it doesn’t work out.

I guess if I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that life requires a healthy balance of self-confidence and self-doubt. We need to believe in ourselves, our knowledge, and our talents. At the same time, though, we need to recognize that there is a right time and a right place for everything. We are exactly where we need to be, even if it doesn’t always seem to be where we want to be.

So, is this new job where I’m meant to be? Only time will tell.

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