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The Divided Self - Tanya Ramirez 24

Yes, no, maybe tomorrow? I still have the weekend, right? I can start reviewing today, but why overdo it? My thoughts raced to opposite ends in search for reasons to hold on to. It was my senior year in high school, my last year and last chance to make things right. My grades were decent, but I knew I could do much better. Still, when it was time to do the work, rather than thinking about putting in the work, my thoughts seemed to get the best of me. It was like a courtroom that presented carefully crafted arguments that were only received with clever counter arguments. But the courtroom was all in my head. And one side always seemed to win – the path of least resistance. But why, how? I blame my teacher!

My sophomore year she told us that the human brain is hard-wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Everybody? How does she know, I thought. She went on to explain what she meant and it all began to make sense! Reading, chores, sports, and family coming over were all painful to me, which is why I avoided it whenever I could. My phone, YouTube, my friends, and keeping weekends fun was all pleasure. So it was normal! Everybody is this way! I felt much better about my opposing thoughts, and the one sided victories. Unfortunately, such ease and understanding was a disaster waiting to happen. The last year went by and I did the same as all three previous years. It was time to think about college, but still had no clue what I wanted to do or be in the future. The good news was that I was still pushing forward, even if I didn't know exactly where I was heading. I was glad to listen to my teachers and my high school counselor, who helped me get into a university.

Here’s what I’ve learned. It was lost time and mistakes during my first two years at the university that forced me to think much deeper about how those two opposite points of views work within me. I now realize that it was my heart that was standing in the way all along. It was my heart that took over one point-of-view that liked feeling comfortable as I took the easiest path available. The major problem was that such path often prevented the effort and progress needed to create progress and good changes when I needed it the most. I kept bad habits and continued to label things as pain to avoid getting to them. My heart was always competing with my mind to relax, and my heart most often won. It was such a smooth and seemingly invisible game I played all the time. I labeled reading, studying, and getting an early start as unnecessary or painful things to do. But I think a better description was growing pains. My mind needed and wanted to grow, but doing things the easy way or the way everyone else does things does not work. And one of the most important skills needed at the university level is the ability to work hard, which requires an early start, reading, asking for help, and growth.

I knew that these two opposing sides of me existed early in school, but I am barely learning to deeply understand them, manage them, and conquer them. I now know that easy, comfortable, and pleasure is not always best for me. I’ve also learned to categorize differently. Rather than simple categories like pleasure or pain, I’ve added ones that included important, time consuming, demanding, inspiring, and for my future. Each new category or label allows me to prepare, minimize stress, and think about the end result that I want. I also have an opportunity to connect categories to my short and long term goals. I am now in my junior year and have declared as a Psychology major. I’m working hard, earning better than decent grades, and already thinking about a master’s program. I wish I could say that I got the hang of this early on in high school, but I didn't. And ironically doing things the easy way feels comfortable, but working smart and conquering the way I think and other challenges feels one hundred times more amazing.

~ T. Ramirez

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