It's a cliche, overused quote, but it's also a lesson I seem to relearn about once (sometimes twice) a year... you can plan all you want, but the truth is, anything past this very moment is almost entirely out of your control.
I may have realized at the start of 2013 that my year was headed in a very new and exciting direction, but, as usual, the wheels of my brain got to turning and I began trying to plan out how the next twelve months would go. Good friends of mine know this activity commonly takes place in my head. Life throws me a curve ball or two (both good and bad), and I try to Type A my way around it and make it all fit into a super scheme that somehow takes care of all my professional and personal needs. Of course, the last 6-7 months have taken me down a few more topsy turvy roads than even I am used to...
I've spent a lot of the last month thinking about where I am at right now, in the present moment. Whatever happened that I wasn't expecting, and whatever happens next, I realize that when I look at who I am and what I am doing right now, I am filled with a sense of humility. This is two fold when I look at the lives of those around me.
Now, my mi amor tells me I suffer from two simultaneous afflictions when I get into self-reflection mode. First, I tend to compare myself a bit too much with others when the only person I should compare myself to is, well, myself. Life isn't a race, and even with a twin sister, I am my own person and can only measure myself against my own goals, accomplishments and attitude.
Secondly, and this is most certainly true, I tend to judge my past actions with knowledge I have only gained in the present. For example, I should've spent a lot more time in January and February writing more pages on my thesis, particularly since the issues with my work and my health caused me to postpone much writing in March, April and May. But how could I have known ahead of time that my contract would end and that I would suffer such a great deal of physical stress during those months in order to make that decision? Nevertheless, I find myself feeling guilty and struggling with a sense of regret and failure.
I am told this is a common occurrence during the thesis process. Oh, what joy is mine.
While my mi amor may be right about these two pressures on my personal reflections, I am also operating with knowledge that he doesn't have. I know the level at which I can push myself. I think back to days when I was in class for 8 hours a day, completing 6 hours of homework each night and working full time while still maintaining some semblance of a life. I remember waking up at 5:00 a.m. every day to go to my teaching internship, followed by work until 6 or 7 and night classes, climbing and prep for the next day. While I certainly don't wish for that level of intensity and that few hours of sleep again, I wonder where my drive to accomplish that much in one day has gone.
I have spent a couple of months battling this kind of thought process. Trying to crank out more than a few hours of thesis work a day, trying to work at midnight or 1 a.m. after a 9 hour shift at the restaurant, trying to wake up at 6 every day and get the ball rolling. It's a lot of trying and struggling and not too much doing (as always, I hear Sifu in my head, "Stop trying, just do it!")
And then, finally, I had a realization.
I am happy.
Sure, I wish I was further a long on my thesis, or that I had finished it by August, or even better, May. Sure, I wish I had already started a full time job that wasn't at a restaurant and that I didn't have crazy hours serving high maintenance guests. Sure, I wish I was climbing more and sleeping less and saving money and had made all the trips I was hoping to have made this summer.
Maybe if I was only sleeping five hours a day and so intensely focused on writing and I didn't have long walks with my Dad or long dinners with my boyfriend, all of the above would have been possible, just like completing my graduate coursework and completing my teaching internship while simultaneously working full time were. But while I loved the work I was doing then, the truth is, that was the only thing that made me happy at the time. My relationship was a mess, I never saw my friends (and when I did I was falling asleep at bar tables and yawning my way through conversations), I missed my family terribly, and physically suffered both extreme weight loss and depression.
When I think of it that way, I know that there is no way I would ever trade a completed thesis and a full time job for the happiness I feel right now, the time I've had with my family and Robert, and even with new friends. There is certainly room for improvement, and I am ready to knock this thesis out and get started on the next big thing, but beating myself up about it won't get me anywhere.
Things happen more slowly now. Maybe I am moving more slowly, maybe I am planning less. I know I am certainly enjoying more. And as I look at where the next couple of months may (or may not) be taking me, I find myself completely okay with watching the plans unfold this time.