For the first two and a bit decades of my life I ran roughshod over myself. Tired or not, sick or not. If i had things to do, they got done. If this involved sport or some other punishing physical endeavour then all the better. It was not unusual for me to play a game of cricket, travel to an away swimming carnival, run 5 to 10k in training for cross-country, and play or umpire a couple of games of netball in the same weekend.
My family values productivity and a work ethic that finishes projects well. I was constantly multi-tasking and was pretty much always engrossed on school work or a book. I was a ball of energy that nothing could get in the way of – I was impatient and eager.
Joining the army only exacerbated this natural inclination. I used to marvel at what I could get done in 5 minutes, or in a day, when push came to shove.
I pushed myself hard, physically, psychologically, intellectually.
It seemed fine.
I learned my limits and they far exceeded my expectations.
I even earned myself an accompanying nickname ‘superanna.’
But to what end?
I used to put it down to a lesson i’d been taught as a swimmer. When you’re swimming competitively you’re taught to swim ‘through the wall’ – that is, not to glide up to it, but be powerful and the wall will stop you. The image is always one, though of swimming through it.
Overachiever is probably word that could be used to describe me. Self-motivated certainly was.
But is the purpose of life. Is it really ‘higher, faster, stronger’?
I often say that life is about choices. But sometimes choices are made for you.
Life came crashing down around me. The house of cards I built that relied upon extreme physical fitness and a mind that was prepared to push beyond the barriers anyone else thought sane came crashing down and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I thought I was a failure for a little while.
I certainly understand how superheros feel when their powers are taken away from them.
A few years down the track and some of my superpowers are back. That in and of itself is — and i don’t used the word lightly — a miracle. They are back, but not in the same way, and there’s definitely kryptonite and other forces that can strike me down to deal with and to be careful of.
Now. Now, i like to think I’m a little wiser. Now, I’m learning to listen to my body.
I’m learning how to say ‘no’. It started with a summer a few years ago when i started to to really listen to how tired I am and how much sleep I need. I started to learn that my worth is not in the responsibilities I have. I lent into learning how to relax a little more and not be so hard a task master on myself.
I came to a rather earth shattering conclusion, at least for me: I don’t have to save the world…..at least not every day.
I’ve learned to be okay with starting some days slowly. Because I know what the purpose of my life is…and it isn’t about how much I get done. My purpose is to (glorify and) enjoy my God, to love my neighbor and to serve others with my gifts and talents. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Well, maybe not simple. But that’s what governs my choices. Choices and their evidence demonstrate priorities. I still reach for the stars – I set challenging goals for myself – I ask hard questions of myself. But, I acknowledge that external validation is not the purpose of my work, or my life.
I’m a little less of a superhero, but I’m more human because of it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Speaker. Reader. Thinker. Writer. Traveler. Advocate
Anna Blanch Rabe, founder of Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates, has been working with Social Enterprises, socially-responsible businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations since 2006 to develop and effectively execute strategic, digital, and narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community capacity, attract talent, and reach new customers. Anna is an Australian-born speaker, writer and advocate. Connect with Anna on Academia.edu, Linked In, Instagram, facebook page, & Twitter.