Several of my students (and myself!) have been going through a bit of a rough spot over the past few weeks. Spring quarter is what I would call pénible in French, because it starts after a short break (a week, maybe more if you don't have final exams or papers to write) and there is only one holiday during the 10-week term. A week sounds like enough, but speaking for myself as a teacher and a student, it's really only enough time to get your things from the last quarter put away and to organize yourself for the next. I'll also point out that it gives little extra time for catching up on sleep that you might need leftover from Winter quarter! So, I have some students who seem to be struggling, like me, to keep the fire burning, as it were. Others have had far too many absences and are trying to figure out how to go forward knowing that their grade will not be what they'd hoped.
One thing that I've learned (finally! Or perhaps for the hundredth time.) being a grad student is that often it is a triage situation. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to do it all well. It's possible--if you are okay with having no social life outside of your office, never go out on Fridays or weekends, and never leave the city (or the office). However, for most people, this is kind of not their ideal situation, and certainly not one they can sustain for three to four quarters out of the year. So what do I tell myself, and my students? It's simple: don't look back and worry about how you did something, or that you didn't do it. Just look to what is next. What is most important, or due first? Do that. Tackle one thing at a time. Now, this is easier said than done, but I think anyone and everyone should hear it and attempt it everyday. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent, a grad student, an artist, a businessperson, a doctor...ANYTHING--just look forward. Of course, celebrate your accomplishments. But I have learned that even dwelling too long on those can be extremely counterproductive. As adults (because I do believe that children should be helped to look back often, as they aren't accustomed to doing so, and should both learn and take encouragement/joy from their past actions, to a certain extent) I believe that we must take up this responsibility.
This morning, I was reading in Philippians, where I found an encouraging word that applies directly to this struggle of facing forward and not being dominated or "owned" by our past (whether by over-dwelling on successes/positives or failures/negatives!).
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. =Philippians 3:12-14As a Christian, we are called directly to look ahead and not back. God will not judge us by our accomplishments or our failures what we reach Him after leaving this earth. He will ask us why we have not helped those in need, given of our earnings, and shared His Word and love as often as we should. However, this is not what most people get hung up on. Having said that, I believe that it becomes easier to do those things I have just listed when one is focused on moving forward and not back. In a literal sense, it should actually bring us to be more present in our present and move the focus away from always being on us. As a person who has struggled greatly and often with this not-looking-back, I urge you to explore the possibilities that it can bring. It isn't easy, and it probably never will be. However, I do believe that it can be integrated more and more into your habits, your routines, and your interactions with those around you. Because we are also called to do the above with others as much as we can from our human (read=fallen) points of view. Treat those around you as you would like to be treated, knowing that you're struggling just to not think about the fact that you just overslept for two hours and missed your morning meeting (or class! Thankfully, this is something that I am truly not guilty of!). And forget about forgetting or not dwelling on the report due yesterday that you are hoping to finish tonight (this is a true story). But what if you did stop thinking about that? Would it make the failures or mistakes angry, and start beating you over the head? Highly doubtful, since they are not people. They are thoughts. It's amazing what a sincere apology or explanation will do for such missteps as those I have mentioned above. Just be honest, for God's sake! And put your damn phone down for five minutes to have a real conversation--please!
To conclude, I want to encourage you: it bears repeating that this isn't an easy thing, to look forward more than looking back. However, even if you look forward once or twice more than you normally would have looked back today, be proud! Do dwell on that (I realize how contradictory that sounds, but hopefully you can dig it), and use it to slowly, but surely, begin to push you into a new trajectory. Know that God knows every mistake, failure, and "bad" thing you will do already, right now--and He forgives you. He already did, so why worry about it anymore than He has? His worrying put Jesus on the cross for you. If you didn't know it, that is finished. So go, today, and move forward!