Last night I did what I haven’t done in a while: I prayed.
I have mixed feelings on what we should pray for, how we should pray for them, and even if prayer’s always necessary, but I couldn’t sleep and the words I needed just seemed to be there. I began thinking of all the people in my life right now who are struggling with sickness whether physically or mentally or emotionally, and all I could ask was for God to share his light with them, to give them what they need to heal and recover.
But my words didn’t stop there. Give them your light, I said, so they can become themselves. Not who they are today–unsatisfied with life, burdened by illness, just getting by–but the people they want to become. Because there is nothing more beautiful than watching a person achieve their potential, watching them grow into the unique and unparalleled person only they can become. And I realized, as I said these words, how much I yearn to witness this transformation in everything I do: When I lead on campus, when I tutor, when I make goals for myself.
Especially, perhaps, when I make goals for myself because when I can continually grow and learn and evolve, the light that shines from this personal transformation will always be alive–and the honesty with which I hope to see it in others will always survive. I strive to grow so I will always remember that others can grow, too.
So we’re about a month in, and what a month has it been–for better or worse, worse or better, and I think I’ve made a lot of progress (and a lot of regression) with where I want to be this year. If you recall, I went through some special efforts this year to make my goals SMART–that is, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In most cases, I succeeded in doing this, but as you’ll see, in some spots I missed the mark.
I want to take care of myself–mind, body, and spirit. I want to stay current with my journalling and write in it at least once weekly. I want to exercise at least three times a week. And I want to dedicate an hour each week solely to relaxation and stress-relief.
Progress report: I never wrote in my journal–even once. I was on point with exercising until I got sick and my doctor said I had to stop. And I realized simultaneously that I have no whole hours in a week to relax and also that I lacked a way to measure what relaxation is.
In regards to the first two, I’ve got to up my game and maybe focus more on how well I’m eating rather than how often I’m exercising until I have the all-clear to get back to the gym.
When it comes to relaxation, I’ve done a lot of reflection: Sitting still is nerve-wracking. I was reading Sherlock the other day when I came across this quote that describes me well: I have a curious constitution, said Sherlock to Watson. I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.
This got me thinking: Perhaps instead of trying to “relax” abstractly, I need to do things that relax me and measure them. So listening to music–singing along and dancing to it–relaxes me. Reading for pleasure relaxes me. Sitting outside from time to time relaxes me. So these are my benchmarks. And since I’ve got no single hour each week, I plan to do each of these things for at least ten minutes altogether every day–in a successful week, that’ll actually give me an extra ten minutes of me-time than if I tried to do it in one sitting. Plus it’s specific and measurable–and flexible enough to accommodate my busy schedule.
I want to maintain an active writing presence in my life. I want to post at least weekly on Words & Wonders and add one new short story and poem to Silent Soliloquy each month. I want to read a minimum of three books this year, and write twelve new short stories and just as many poems.
Progress report: I’ve kept to this remarkably well, except where I missed writing and posting a new short story in January. With all that’s going on, I haven’t felt inspired to write–and the one story I started writing quickly left me feeling apathetic about the whole endeavor. That said, I’ve written a lot of poetry, and I’ll continue to do so since I switched from creative nonfiction to advanced poetry (for a number of reasons irrelevant today).
When it comes to the book requirement specifically, I’ve chopped it off my goal list: If I’ll be reading to relax, then I’ll definitely read at least three books this year, so it seems unnecessarily gratuitous to have both goals simultaneously. Additionally, simply having one less goal to keep track of visually reduces the amount I need to do–and that relieves a lot of latent stress I hadn’t realized was there.
That’s actually a point I plan to come back to in a later post: The amount of stress I experience is often more than it needs to be, even when I’m not doing anything to cause myself additional stress. An exercise in mindfulness, but not a tale for today.
I want to be a successful student and a strong campus leader. I want to finish my Equal Opportunity Institute certification. I want to maintain at least a 3.75 GPA. And I want to complete my semester plan leading up to graduation.
Progress report: Once more I found myself lacking an adequate measure–how can I monitor my GPA progress if I won’t know my GPA until the semester is over–until after I have the chance to change it?
I think the next logical step is to realize how I need to spend my time studying each day, and then consider it a successful day if I meet that mark. I need to work on analysis every day–that’s non-negotiable, and a task I’ve been loathe to commit to. After that minimum, I need to commit myself to reading and writing assignments in my other classes–generally sparse or lax enough that I can crank out two or three on top of analysis, if I pace myself properly. An effective rubric will help me plan when I study, and being able to check off progress on my goal chart will provide both encouragement and a feeling of accomplishment every day–two things I need to feel and function at my highest level.
Compared to this time last year, I feel like I’ve had fewer revisions to make to my goals–taking the extra time to make them SMART at the start has given me a good way to keep up with myself, track my progress, and make the adjustments necessary to achieve the success I want. I’ve got a long way to go to get where I want to be–but I’ve still got eleven months, and that’s enough time for me.
Except there’s really one more goal I’m working on this month–and I’ve really only got this month to achieve it: I’m fundraising to raise $500 for my service trip to Alaska this spring break. More than asking for money, though, I’m asking to let people help me share the growth I experience in Alaska with each of them–and everyone who donates will receive a token from my trip that will hopefully help inspire them to continue working towards their best selves as it will no doubt inspire me.