Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Present Self, Learn from Past Self

Letter to Winter Quarter Self:

It’s a New Year and a new quarter – full of lots of possibilities and opportunities. It’s up to YOU to make sure they are positives and not more “learning” opportunities. Last quarter was rough, but I think it was in part because we let people get into our head. There are four things we need to remember that we’ve learned from last quarter: confidence, permission, balance, and mindfulness.

Confidence: I’m not sure when you’re spirit was broken (okay, we both know when, where, and by whom), but that was done and gone with over three years ago, enough already.  You’re in the #3 program in the country! You’re in the #1 research program in the country! You’ve written funded grants – multi-million dollar Federal grants. You’ve won awards for your writing. You can hold your own in a statistics meeting with seasoned professionals in a complicated research design. You allowed others to define your identity in this program before it even started.

IF IT WAS EASY, YOU’D BE ONE OF HUNDREDS, NOT ONE OF TWENTY. When you doubt yourself, whether you should be here or if you can cut it, open up Buckeyelink and look at your grades from last quarter. Then, click on the SEIs from 463. Look at what students said about you – students who had nothing to gain but gave their opinion anyway. Look at the letter your supervisor wrote about you. Re-read your personal statement. It got you in. If this doesn’t convince you, close your eyes and imagine that 20’ wall. Smell the mud, the sweat, the straw. Feel the pressure of the people running behind you. Are you going to climb this motherfucker or not? You kicked that wall’s ass. You screamed, you trembled, you were scared, you were tired, your muscles were beyond fatigued, but you did it. Now open your eyes, and write this fucking paper.

Permission: For some reason, we thought we needed permission to be confident, or to belong.  Since when do we need permission!?! Your days of asking permission ended when you were made an offer of admittance. YOU DON’T NEED PERMISSION TO BE SUCCESSFUL. Stop looking for reasons to go meekly. Act like you’ve been here before, because you have been. You’ve done research. You’ve gotten published. You’ve presented at National Conferences. You’ve coordinated major political events, campaigns, a successful household, what makes you think you don’t belong? Because they’re younger? Are you here for an education or for a good time? Are you here to network with professionals or to make sure you’re popular? You have permission to be successful – you no longer need to pause to determine if you should, JUST FRIGGIN’ DO IT.

Balance: Last quarter was rough, no one who knows you would argue otherwise. You weren’t yourself, and it’s because the balance you’ve been working hard for two years was disrupted. You were trying to be 110% for all the 100% in your world, and that just doesn’t work. You tried to make it like nothing has changed, your new job was just school, that’s all. For the sanity of yourself and for those who have to put up with you, maintain balance. That means getting in a workout, don’t touch the computer while the kids are around, make time for your husband, take a moment each day for just you – even if it’s just dancing stupid in the car or strutting on the way to class. When you feel like yourself, the other stuff will fall into place.

Mindfulness: Remember ALIA? Remember the lessons you learned there? What was your goal? To find your swagger. You found some of the tools to find that swagger. This new journey is the rest of that.  Last quarter we were pretty scattered, in thoughts and action. There was little flow between tasks. You abandoned your organization and at some point, gave up trying. Take a moment and breathe. LITERALLY. Reflect in a simple task for a moment. Be mindful to BE HERE NOW. Don’t wish away a moment to hurry to the next.  Allow yourself to feel the range of emotions you want to – you don’t have to be strong all the time. But you also don’t get to wallow in defeat or difficulty for very long. You’ll miss the next opportunity.

We did a lot right last quarter. The best thing we did, though, is survive and prove that we are WORTH IT! Each quarter is going to be different, with new opportunities. Try not to take it so seriously. You might actually have fun instead of ulcers. Remember, each step you’ve taken so far has lead you here. You belong here. Discomfort is temporary. These lessons are long reaching.

Your Autumn Quarter Self

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