by William Anderson
You know that feeling when you’re underwater for too long and can’t breathe? You dive a bit deeper than you expected and it takes too long to get back to the surface. Your head breaks the top of the water and you take that first deep breath. That’s me right now. My head is finally above water and I’m filling my lungs. It feels amazing.
I just finished Graduate school and I’m not sure what to do with myself. As I handed in my final project and left the class room for the last time, I felt strange. Still a bit panicky, like there were 10 things to get done… but there wasn’t. I had to calm my brain down and just breathe.
The last two years of graduate school
I sat in my truck for a minute and just reflected on the last two and a half years since my wife and I decided that I should go back to school. I was working full-time and going to school part-time at night. With two or three classes each semester, I was going straight from work to campus. I had two kids… and then a third, a tired wife and social obligations placed on the back burner. Plus there was study time in the evenings when there wasn’t class, an internship program, and a demanding church calling working with the youth.
I’ve basically spent the last two and a half years operating under the premise that there was always something I needed to be working on. Now…nothing. Last night, I played video games with my six-year-old daughter. No guilt. No “Ok, but only for a minute and then I have to go downstairs and study.” Just me, her and Mario. It was awesome. It got me thinking about what is next for me and where my priorities are going to be moving forward.
Stop glorifying busy
I have learned two valuable lessons from graduate school and being so busy the last two and a half years. First, I don’t want to ever get stretched so thin again. Graduate school seems like a good enough reason to go through something like that, but there are not too many good reasons to let yourself get so wrapped up in something that the most important parts of life are diminished.
My sister posted a cool quote on Facebook a while back. It said “Stop glorifying busy.” It seems like we have this notion that we all need to be busy and the busier you are, the more important you are or something. But are we busy doing important things? I’m not qualified to make a list of activities that qualify as important or not; that’s up to you personally. I just found myself constantly telling my family “no” when I really wanted to say “yes.” It seems ironic that we fill our lives with so many things to do and obligations to meet that we run ourselves ragged to the point that we are unable to enjoy life. I’m done glorifying busy.
Cherish these days
I have determined that time moves entirely too fast. I watch videos of my kids when they were babies. It has only been several years since then and I cannot remember what that was like. I will take the advice I get from every single older parent; “Cherish these days”, they say, “because they’ll be over before you know it.” I’m going to take their word on this one. I will not wish away a single day. There were days when I would be swamped with responsibility, assignments, projects and think “I can’t wait till this is all over. It will be so great a year from now.” Not anymore. Today is great and that’s all I really need.
The next lesson from graduate school is that I enjoy being engaged in a worthwhile cause. I like working on things that are big and important and challenging. I want to be channeling my energy into things that make me a better person. Now that I am finished with graduate school, I have determined that I need to find the next thing. I sit at my desk at work and wonder, “What’s next?” I have not yet found out what that is, exactly, but I have a few key parameters already set.
First, is that it will be a worthwhile endeavor. Whatever the project may be, it will be something that enhances mine and others lives. Second, I want it to be something that my entire family can get behind and be involved in. If I’m going to undertake a large, challenging task again, I won’t do it alone. We will build memories being anxiously engaged in good causes and doing good in the community and abroad. I feel as though I have been blessed. I have a deep sense of gratitude for those blessings. In my opinion, the best way to express gratitude is by using your good fortune to help those in need.
Life is too short and moves too fast to spend it wishing time away. There are so many opportunities to do good out there. This combination of values has helped to steer me toward setting and keeping meaningful goals. Graduate school was ridiculously challenging. I learned and grew a ton. However, some of the things I learned were surprisingly non-academic. These lessons may prove to be the most valuable of all. Here’s hoping.