Friday, January 4, 2008

Reading, Writing, and Diet Coke

Reading. Writing. Drinking too much caffeine. This is what I have been doing for the past 3 weeks.

Sleeping. Exercising. Eating healthy. Relaxing. These are things I have not been doing enough over the past 4 weeks.

This fall semester was by far the most difficult term I have ever faced. This difficulty came for a variety of reasons. I took an overload of very demanding classes, I had just returned from the trip of a lifetime... Feeling refreshed and "ready to go," I took on extra tasks readily and energetically.

Then I discovered that the life I led all summer in South Africa- a life that included working hard at different sorts of challenges than I had ever previously faced- also allowed for something I have never before taken enough time for: rest. Work is done best- and is most effective- when the worker has also taken proper time to rest and to care for their whole self. I was able to do that all summer.

Returning to the States with a new (albeit unintentionally) mindset, I have concluded that pushing myself "too hard" does more harm than good. So my boundaries have been reinforced. In terms of school work, this has meant I put into practice these ideas:
*When I am up studying at night and can't keep my eyes open, I should sleep.
*My work will be there in the morning. Some things are just more important than reading an article or writing a paper by a specific deadline.
*My grades will not make or break me as a future leader. What is important is that I am learning, not that I can make it look like I'm learning by having "good grades" on paper.
*Caring for only a part of oneself is not wholly beneficial. Physical, emotional, and spiritual well being should be cared for by one another side-by-side, not "one at a time." Sometimes, this means sacrificing other things in life... but it is worth it.
*Community is essential. While I do not rest my self-worth, etc on how others see me, I do recognize that without community and the power/encouragement/support/knowledge of the collective, an individual can do far less.
*Big change doesn't come overnight, and it can't work on "a plan." It requires a lifestyle change through and through- whether something as "small" as a diet (I've lost 12 pounds since 1 November!) or as important as spiritual practices, it takes time, prayer, and persistence to see change.

Why, then, have I been neglecting these new "life rules" by which I have been living over the past few months? Unfortunately, my overload of work has caught up to me... well, that, and with an upcoming trip to England, I don't want to be bogged down by intense amounts of work (and books) in a hotel room while there. In an effort to get as much done as possible, I have resorted to caffeine as my drug of choice and taking only one extension- which I intentionally (whether intelligent or not) set the due date as such that I HAVE to get it done before leaving for J-term.

For better or worse, I will be caught up soon. (and sleep deprived while still high on caffeine. Yes, it really does effect me that much, as I otherwise try not to drink it often).

Next semester will be different. Somehow.

1 comment:

digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Hi Jen,

Thanks for this thoughtful post.

Unfortunately the reality is that you are part of a system that requires so much more of you than would normally be expected! I have always been amazed at how hard American Grad students work!

Of course there are rewards for such sacrifices... But, sadly, there is also a cost.

Take care! You are in my prayers this year!

Hurry back to Africa!