When I was in high school whenever I failed in reaching my expectation I would restrain myself from saying “It’s okay”, I would punch wall, throw stuff, you name it. The thought of saying “It’s okay” to failure was not something in my dictionary and even in failure I always said “It’s not okay, it’s on you”. My first big failure is in second semester in university where I plummet from cum laude to two point-ish, and of course the first thing I said was “It’s not okay, it’s on you”. Was there something inherently wrong with me? I was trained that error is something I control, that I can always control everything I wanted. Whenever I think “It’s okay, it’s not on you” I feel fake, like the emotion was an excuse for my negligence.
There’s a lot of post lately saying that “It’s okay” is actually okay. The talk of self-compassion, valuing little things on our journey, etc. If I were to hear it four to five years earlier I would’ve disgusted by the thought of it.
I know things aren’t always the way we wished they were, that even our own mind can be a wild horse sometimes. But things have changed a lot in me, sometimes I despair why am I such a failure. Why can’t I bear all this responsibility? Why others can and I don’t? Of course I’ve heard all the niche from both sides, my right side tells me “it’s okay, everyone messed up sometimes” and my left side tells me “your predicament is 100% the product of your action” and leaning too much on one side can actually stop me from growing.
I’ve been lucky to have my share of brilliance and novelty, but I also have been in the bottom. Before, I thought whenever I feel rock bottom all my talents and gifts are nullified, that greatness is a streak of clean sheet without stains of failure. It’s a Bayesian thought, that previous failure would affect the probability of the future.
One day my father took me to a driving range, there we spent about 200 golf balls and I notice something, I am only as good as my current score. The next shot has nothing to do with the previous one. It was only after I’ve swing the 100-ish ball that pattern begin to converge, that my swings are consistent with some few minor failure and that is after I am comfortable with myself and found my style. This shattered my Bayesian worldview and allowed me to explore new things without feeling burdened by my failures. After that I ran to my laptop to register my competitive programming account and took Steven Halim’s CP 3 and do the problems there, the thing I’ve always wanted to do.
But sometimes I feel like I’m still in the bottom, this time I say “I’m not okay, but it’s not totally on me” after I failed a take home test because I had depressive episodes for a week. It’s not okay for me, I feel ashamed, guilty, and stupid. If now I say “It’s okay, it’s not on you” it would be a fake emotion, the one I cannot live with. I still struggle with depressive episodes, and I can tell you it’s not okay, it’s one of the worst thing in my life but it’s something I should’ve been able to mitigate or anticipate. It’s a disaster and it’s not okay.
I guess the right answer is a Korean drama title, “It’s okay not to be okay”.