A 24 year old’s rants about stress management, expectations, idealism and self-pressure

Extracted from my Dayre, because I’m feeling all of these emotions all over again..

Today’s post will just be random pent up feelings I’ve been holding in for a long time.

Yesterday, I was speaking to a doctor I’d just seen for the first time, who’s a lovely lady that I enjoyed chatting with for about an hour. She was examining my skin when she commented that I look like I don’t sleep enough. I guess she could tell just from looking at me.

“I don’t”, I told her, half laughing but half pitying myself because I’m hit by the harsh reality of this sad truth. I worry about a lot of things. I let my emotions get in the way too much. I don’t sleep well at all. I’ve got a never ending to list and work piled up to my neck each and every week. I don’t even have time for holidays but I forcefully put everything on hold at my own risk, because I just needed a breather.

Some peace, space, and sanity. There are good days, and there are near meltdown days. I’m happy most of the time, but I don’t have time to just sit back and BE happy. There’s always some kind of problem to be fixed in my life. There’s always a thousand and one things on my mind.

As I said this out loud to a stranger, I almost kind of teared up, because the amount of pressure I am constantly under kind of came out of my mouth like verbal diarrhea and here I was spilling my life story to someone I had just met.

Yes, I’m always smiling. I’m always joking around. But underneath that cheerfulness, lies something deeper and darker. For people like me, happiness is an everyday, conscious decision. It is a choice. It is making the effort to focus on the good, and not let the negative aspects take over my emotions and activities. It’s choosing to say, “I can do this. Yes I can.” Instead of, “Fuck me, fuck this shit, fuck the whole world.”

Happiness is simple, yes. But my life isn’t simple. It’s really anything but. But it’s the life I have, and it’s the life I chose. Even if I didn’t choose certain conditions, they sure did stick with me. So it shall be the life I live. I don’t know what it is with me, but sleep always seems impossible. Before I met my current boyfriend, quality sleep was something I used to dream about.

Ever since I broke up with my ex of many years, I’ve been struggling with insomnia a whole lot. I used to sleep A LOT. Like 12 hours some days. That was the good life. Now? My sleep schedule is completely fucked up.

I get so little sleep because I’m stressed and then I can’t function in the day because of how tired I am, and because I get so little done in the day I become even more stressed by night so then I can’t sleep even more and the next day I’m even more exhausted, and this cycle never seems to end.

Days of bad sleep dragged into weeks and then months, now I can’t even remember the last time I had good sleep that lasted sufficiently.

Stress management is something I never realized I was so bad at. I guess ever since I’ve started running the cafe, my stress levels have reached an all time high. My hair is dropping like nobody’s business. I gave up even sweeping the floor regularly.

Every time I’d sweep the floor, by hours later, it would be covered in hair again, because that is just how frequently strands are falling off my head. You can even see patches of baldness on my scalp now. I’m 24 and balding. Jesus.

Maybe my problem is that I want too much. I think I can handle everything, but the matter of fact is, I cannot do everything myself sometimes, and I’m not a superwoman.

I thought I could go out there and run a cafe by myself at 24 without an investor, business partner, mentor, no prior experience, and just make it work. While the numbers have got to work their magic, at the same time, I thought I would be able to manage a healthy social life at the same time.

Go out with friends, have romantic dates, go on holidays, maintain my social media, complete my blogging assignments on time, keep up with people in my life, do housework, travel when given the opportunity, all these while running the cafe, thinking constantly about how to improve and having to deal with problems thrown my way..

Some days, it just gets too much. I realized that in the midst of trying to be somebody, I ended up not wanting to be anybody. Recently, I realized that I just wanted to not have any responsibilities to my name. The feeling of not wanting to be shiberty, or a cafe owner, or have people chase me for blog drafts or look for me when problems arise.

I just wanted to be Jessica Loh, nameless happy carefree girl walking down the street, and nobody knows her name, but that’s alright. Because she’s happy just living her life in her own little bubble. Maybe a 9 to 5 standard office job isn’t as bad as I thought it was. I mean, it’s certainly something I could get used to.. Right?

But noooooo I couldn’t just be happy with that, could I? I wanted to start a cafe, and so I did. I wanted to be different, and so I am. Sometimes I wonder, what is so frightening about the ordinary. What is it about myself that screams inside “we refuse to conform to the norm” and seek self validation from being different. Why try to be different, when by doing so, you’re just being the same as everyone else?

I feel like I’ve been chasing ideals since forever, and well, I’m just sick of it. Tired of chasing perfection, to be putting myself under so much stress that I can barely function. Beating myself up over not performing as well as I wanted to or expected myself to. All these expectations, they’re killing me. They’re killing my happiness, vibes, creativity and soul.

They’re suffocating me. I’ve just had enough of these RIDICULOUS standards I’ve set for myself and my life, standards I wholeheartedly believed I needed to achieve in order to be happy.

Just like how I was on holiday recently with Daric, and everyday, I was out chasing the perfect itinerary, planning our days from morning to night, needing to know what we were going to get up to every hour, taking a ton of photos as we go, just so we could have the “perfect holiday”.

Now I realized just how fucking insane that was. Instead of taking the time to enjoy the time off work we had with each other in a foreign country, I’m shuttling us back and forth, from place to place. Gotta. Complete. Everything. On. Our. Itinerary.

It’s not until we have quiet moments to ourselves, when we DIDN’T plan anything but ended up enjoying ourselves anyway, that I realize, the less you expect, the more pleasantly surprised you’ll be. Some of my best moments in Perth with Daric were just simple ones of us laying beside each other on bean bags in front of a warm fireplace, as opposed to the grand adventures we went on. Adventures were nice, but the small nameless moments ended up being the most precious memories.

And in those moments, I had zero expectations for them to be magical…. They just were. In their own quiet little way. I loved that.

Of course it’s healthy to have expectations. But don’t kill yourself over them. Do your best, and let the rest happen naturally. I’m such an over thinker. I’m so concerned about whether it’s perfect, I would rather abandon the project than finish it knowing that it’s not the best I could do. I realize now that it’s not the right way to approach things. The best way to do something, is to get that thing done. An imperfectly done job is better than a perfect unexecuted idea on most days.

So yeah. While I have many reasons to be happy, I realized that two things have been making things much rougher for myself than they should’ve been, and that is having too many expectations, and poor stress / time management. Poor time management also leads to more stress, that’s why I grouped them together. Everything is interlinked.

I’m sharing this on my dayre because I know many of you in your twenties and thirties out there reading this are trying your best to place first in this rat race we call life, just like I am. We’re SOOO obsessed with being the best we could be. That’s what our generation has been told since we were young. We’re told we can do anything. We can be anybody we want to. But you don’t HAVE to be SOMEBODY in order to be somebody.

You can just do you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So what if you’re not outrightly extraordinary, commercially pretty or hugely successful. Just know that to the world, you may not feel like you’re somebody, but to someone, you’re their entire world.

You know who is an extraordinary person to me? Someone who can find something special in everyday, minute things. Someone who can smile in the face of adversity, and always make someone else laugh.

Being a good person and learning how to be contented with life is THE most successful thing you can achieve. I believe that with every inch of my beating heart. Some people walk around rich and successful, yet not realizing how to be a decent human being people actually like. It’s so sad.

Life is too complicated these days. All the gadgets, technology, fast paced living and getting caught up in the hustle and bustle. I want this to stop.

I wanna stop using my phone during dinner times. I remember someone asking me, “Why are you using your phone during dinner?” And I replied, “Because there’s always messages to reply.”

And they said, “So? You know there’s going to be never ending work no matter what. Even if you finish your work now, you’ll have more later on. So leave the work for later on. Have your meal in peace. Assign and allocate time to breathe, eat, think and work, separately.”

Those words stuck with me, and unless it’s something super urgent, I don’t think I’ve bothered attending calls or texts about work when I don’t feel like there’s an immediate impending urge to, since. Dinner times, are just dinner times now.

Gotta learn to let go.

Let go of your expectations Jess. And the self pressure. Negativity. The need to take photos at every happy moment. The need to be a slave to your phone, social image and work.

Go back to basics.

Enjoy the little things. Relish the nameless moments you never got to capture on camera because you were too busy living in it. Don’t forget to breathe. Tackle your to do list by checking things off one by one. Worrying never did anyone any good. Stop chasing after ideals that aren’t real life. Define your own life by what you think is good enough for you, instead of comparing yourself to other people. When you feel like giving up, remember why you started in the first place.

Back to the nice woman I met yesterday. After an accidental rant to her about how stressed I am with my life and job, she gave me a reassuring touch on the arm and said, “I think you’re doing a fantastic job.”

And these words she said made me want to burst out sobbing.

“I’ve never met you, but I’ve heard a lot about you from other people. They tell me about your blog, and the amazing food you make at your cafe. I would love to visit some day. Some people even openly expressed that I should engage you to write about my business when I mentioned that I was keen in doing marketing with bloggers! They say you’re different, and that they like you a lot. I think you’ve done really well, especially for your age.”

I’ve been my own harshest critic, so to hear these kind words being uttered from a stranger, meant the world. I just looked at her and said thank you. She has no idea how much weight her words hold. A bit of kindness definitely goes a long way.

I can never relate when people say things like “for your age”. I don’t feel like I’m doing well for my age at all, I always feel like I could be doing much BETTER. Could it be a disease we are all plagued with because we were born in Singapore? Perhaps it IS the truth – that I actually can do way, way better.

But I think I’ve been terribly unkind to myself by not recognizing what I’ve accomplished. By not giving myself credit for what I’ve already done, by choosing to only stress over and focus on what I HAVEN’T done.

I’ve got the rest of my life to do everything I want to do. What’s the big hurry? And what’s all the fuss about?

Stressing over something won’t get the job done. If anything, it hinders your productivity.

I swear, from today onwards, I’m going to live my life differently. I’m going to try nitpicking faults and wallowing in the shadows of “what ifs” and “could have beens”. Stop the comparisons, expectations, unnecessary negativity, and self given pressure. Stress is something self created. I need to stop giving myself shit I don’t deserve.

There will always be naysayers. People who tell you or make you feel like you’re not doing good enough. Perhaps that voice is your parents, your boss, your partner or even a voice inside your head. But don’t listen to it. Don’t let it consume you, because you know how hard you’ve worked for everything you have, and only you know what you can really achieve.

I will do my very best to learn from each and every mistake I make, and not let this be an excuse for complacency or pure laziness. I will live each day with no regrets, and I know that if I keep chasing ideals, I will always regret not doing better. I will reward myself when I’ve done well, but not punish myself for not doing the best I can, for the best is yet to be. I will learn to manage my time for work, relationships and pleasure so that I have enough for all of the above.

And SLEEP. God, I miss good sleep. You really can’t function without it.

I read before that the easiest way to have what you want, is to want what you have. And I have a lot to be grateful for. I never want to forget that. Because being happy is not just as simple as “be”. You gotta know what to hold onto, and what to let go.

Today, I’m letting go of unhealthy expectations, and I’m just going to let myself live. Mistakes are essential to becoming better, and I should embrace them with grace.

In our quest to make the most out of our lives, let us not forget how to actually live.