2013. So much to say about it. The downside is my gut check, instinctual response goes something like this.
In many concrete, quantifiable ways, 2013 was frustrating. Running didn’t go particularly well. I didn’t even finish half of my 101 items from a couple years ago. I spent the entire year working on a publication that wasn’t submitted until just before going on Christmas break. And just beneath everything, stress was omnipresent.
It was everywhere. I have never dealt with such levels of stress. Even though the year in of itself wasn’t awful, the stress dampened enthusiasm, and made everything feel worse than it actually was. It colored events with an extremely negative hue, fostering a “let’s just get this over with” mentality that is, by itself, unhealthy and completely boring.
I won’t rehash the year’s stressors; they are numerous enough and can likely be distilled from previous postings here. What I do want to hammer upon is something I already alluded to, something is more or less going to be my “resolution” for 2014:
Love the process.
My primary failing in 2013 was spending too much time and energy fighting battles that were unwinnable or simply not worth fighting (protip to anyone reading this who might be planning a wedding: there are LOTS of battles. Choose wisely). Spending so much time struggling against the system or impending deadlines or unreasonable demands spawned a feeling of obligation: I just needed to “get through this” and “get it done.” That’s fine for the occasional, exceptional run or work milestone. However, this is a problem when every single project or training run has the same get-it-over-with undercurrent. One starts looking past it, but to nothing in particular. The mental dialogue goes something like:
“I can’t wait until I’m finished.”
“Because this is stressful.”
“What will you do when you’re done, then?”
“Not be stressed anymore, I guess?”
“So once this is done, you’ll pull an Office Space and sit on your ass and do nothing?”
“Hmm. You make an annoyingly valid point.”
Remember that old adage “it’s the journey, not the destination”? Turns out, it’s quite literally true. Forsaking the journey entirely and focusing exclusively on the destination paradoxically robs the end goal of its purpose: accomplishment.
Love the process.
I really and truly love what I work on. I’ve learned so, so much in my years as a graduate student, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Something I haven’t spent enough time reminding myself of this year is that I love this stuff. I really, really do. I put my heart and soul into my work, which inevitably leads to disappointment when something doesn’t work, but also instills a great deal of pride and accomplishment when it does. And contrary to my knee-jerk reaction, I have accomplished a lot this year. 2013 was a complicated year, and should be remembered as such.
But frankly it pales in comparison to what 2014 will bring: my thesis defense in September, the start of a new job, and marriage to my best friend and partner in crime. It’s so exciting to consider; I’m amped about the work I’m going to be doing to complete my thesis, and I couldn’t be happier to marry the woman I’ve been dating for over seven years. The key in all this, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, will be:
Love the process.
To put it bluntly, stress will be part of the equation. Unavoidable. So rather than waste energy fighting the inevitable, I’ll need to plan for mitigation instead. Focus on how much fun it is to be healthy and running through the great outdoors; focus on how neat each aspect of a hierarchical eigensolver ported across several distributed frameworks will be; focus on how exciting it is to see all these research papers coming together after so much hard work; focus on the anticipation of seeing my wife-to-be as she enters the hall for the first time on our wedding day.
My 2014 resolution, dear readers, is not to join a gym or eat healthier or focus on work more or be nicer to my fellow human or any of that crap. My 2014 resolution is to love the process. Love what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. To wax disgustingly philosophical, we have a limited amount of time here, so don’t waste it looking beyond the present. Even if the present is something tedious, boring, and you’d rather be off doing one of hundreds of other things, it’s still worth doing and doing well, otherwise you really would be off doing something else.
Happy 2014, everyone! Make it a great one!