I’d like to say that this several-week-long gap between my posts is an artistic expression of the time frame during which I waited for an answer from Western Carolina University, but that would be a “creative interpretation of the truth”, or in other words, big fat fib.
I’ve been treating myself to the delights of summer in Western North Carolina. With the additional excuse of having my family in town for a long visit, I’ve been indulging as much kayaking, hiking, swimming and festival-going as I could get away with. Since the end of summer and the beginning of school is fast approaching, I thought I’d better take a little time to catch up my journal before the real work begins.
Although not quite as painful as preparing for the GRE, the “4 to 6 week” waiting period between the deadline for graduate school applications and receiving the acceptance/rejection letter from the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at WCU was extremely stressful. It was hard not to obsess about it and as time went along I became increasingly more difficult to live with. Of course it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if I wasn’t accepted into that extremely competitive program, but the thought of another year at my current job and going through the GRE and application process again nearly reduced me to tears on more than one occasion.
I finally received my acceptance via email! After the wave of relief passed and excitement relaxed into planning my next steps, I felt a tiny twinge of something between shame and guilt. I had been a bit of a jerk at the times when I had let the stress of an unknown future get to me. Over a pint of locally-brewed stout I began looking back at the past month, then a bit further back over months and years, and I noticed a pattern and an opportunity…
In this moment of epiphany and delicious hops and barley goodness, I discovered one of the keys to increased happiness: Focus.
Some people can’t help but look back with nostalgia at the glory days gone by or fret and fester over regrets of the past. Others “live for today”, unable or unwilling to address the possibilities of the future. I have a tendency to be a “look to the future” kind of gal. I focus on what’s coming. I plan and plot and visualize what can be. I focus on how good life is gonna be. (And as the expression goes, “Man plans, God laughs”.)
The trouble with any of these mentalities is their limited vision. The past-dwellers miss out on the opportunities of today and planning for the future. The live-now set aren’t prepared for what’s coming and the what’s-next folks miss out on everything that’s wonderful around them right now.
By being SO focused on whether or not I was getting to go to grad school in the fall and letting that stress ooze in to my today, I had tainted my enjoyment of the now and those who shared it with me.
So, the trick to increased happiness: balanced focus. Appreciate the good times and hard-won lessons of the past. Make a plan for the future, commit to it and be prepared to make adjustments. Enjoy and appreciate the now; this moment only happens once, so you have to be IN it while it’s happening.
It’s a tough balancing act to keep such a broad focus in check, but I think it will be a battle worth fighting in the end.