This is the final blog post in my series about attitudes that will make life better.
In my first post, I wrote about how to love life better. This included:
- loving on purpose, rather than when it’s convenient
- finding joy in community, rather than personal pleasure
- pursuing peace through contentment, even when the struggle is real
As someone who feels like I’m constantly in battle with mental health, or friendships, or personal and social expectations, it’s hard to slow down enough to pay attention to other people and find peace in where my feet currently stand.
In my second post, I talked about the ingredients needed to get along with others. Things like:
- being gentle with yourself and others, even when there’s every temptation to work harder
- acting in goodness every moment, even if the simpler option is to mind your own business
- committing to kindness in every interaction, even with people who are hard to love
The gentleness topic really struck me. I knew on some level that I hardly ever treated myself with gentleness (just see my calendar and you’d no longer wonder why I’m always stressed out). But for the last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing this self-awareness on a different level.
Sometimes, I do work that doesn’t need to be done right then. I’ll spend an entire day knocking out homework… that isn’t due until next week. I struggle to truly learn things in class because I’m already strategizing how to memorize it all before the test. I gripe and groan about never having enough time to read and write and sleep when I do so many unnecessary things during my day.
But two Saturdays ago, I decided to go to the beach. I could’ve worked ahead on my homework. I could’ve crammed a week’s worth of writing into one sitting. Instead, I sat on a picnic blanket on the sand next to my best friend’s dog and read a book. I didn’t think about school once.
And one day last week, I got home from school and watched two episodes of Umbrella Academy. I didn’t do homework that night. I didn’t need to do homework that night, so I rested and ate strawberries while observing a chaotic TV show lose all of the potential built up from the first two seasons.
Gentleness with myself has been a new thing, but I kind of like it. And when I’m gentle with my time, I’m able to be gentle with others more easily.
Have any of the topics so far influenced you? Have you noticed any discrepancies between how you know you ought to act and what you actually do?
This week, we’re focusing in on steadiness and patience.
If you’ve been around the blog long enough, you know I struggle with both of these things often. I struggle to make attainable goals. I struggle to establish habits. I struggle to even know what I want most of the time.
And this feels so applicable right about now.
I’ve chosen to post every other Monday for the rest of the year because I felt too overwhelmed with all my commitments to keep writing last minute blog posts every Sunday night.
But now that I only post twice a month, those deadlines sneak up on me, almost quicker than when I was posting weekly.
Some two week periods, I lose all motivation to blog. I have a solid idea, plus some specific bullet points and examples written out. But even with all that planning (good job, past me), sometimes it’s hard to just get it done.
Other times, I’m super excited about the next topic, but simply don’t have the time to write out my thoughts (usually school is to blame). By the time my schedule calms down, I’m too tired to write about the subject. I’m impatient for the next post, yet fighting against my very schedule to write it down.
What does it look like to stay steadfast and balanced when it feels like every season is like a mechanical bull ride that we’re barely holding onto?
Faithfulness In This Season
My chronic worry often gets the best of me.
Will I do well on this exam?
Will I have time for homework this week?
Will I make it to my clubs this week? Will I make friends this week? Will I figure out my career this week? Will I finally understand the beautiful trajectory of my life this week and know from now on which steps to take?
To counterbalance my worry, I work too hard.
I overstudy for an exam and still feel disappointed when I only get a 94%.
I spend too much time on homework and then rush to my club meetings ready for a nap.
I talk about my career angst all the time. Or I research options. Or I pretend not to worry about it, but secretly I’m making valid backup plans in my head that don’t include marrying someone rich.
But this isn’t faithfulness.
This isn’t trusting the process and letting my current season be my focus.
I’m sure I would see a lot more beauty in my life if I paid attention to today.
Right now, there isn’t a lot of movement going on in my goals.
My Bookstagram hasn’t taken off. My novel isn’t being written with words flying out of my fingers (in fact, I haven’t worked on my novel in two weeks). My goal of becoming a published author feels stagnate.
But I know it’s not stagnate because publishing is a process, not an overnight shipment.
And I also know being a full-time college student means my attention has to lie elsewhere sometimes.
Thinking I should be farther along by now isn’t helpful. But thinking about what I can feasibly do right now in this season will set me up for the future circumstance when my career feels like it’s progressing at lightspeed.
Steadiness in this season, even when this season is difficult or not what you expected, is the only way to get to the next season fully armed to conquer.
Patience When Circumstances are Frustrating
I am ridiculously impatient to get intro biology over with.
I should have taken this course my freshman year but instead I pushed it off. Now I am suffering the consequences: my present self must complete the course rather than my past self, who could’ve done the whole class online two years ago.
But it’s not just that I find the content boring. It’s that I also find it hard.
Everything the professor tells us is new information to me because I’ve spent the last two years taking English and psychology courses. I’m used to immediately understanding new content, mostly because it’s content I actually care about and have already researched outside of class.
Thus, my impatience. I want to get 100% on every quiz and exam, but I’m slow to learn and understand. Over time, I’m sure I’ll understand the content better, but for right now, I’m still trying to grasp basic chemistry while the rest of the class has moved on to eukaryotic cells.
It’s hard to have patience with yourself when you’re slow to meet your expectations.
I struggled with impatience as a twelve year old writing my first book and wanting it to be just like the published books I read everyday.
The thing was, I didn’t know enough about writing to execute great writing. And after eight years, I’m still learning what great writing even is.
I struggle with impatience with my career uncertainty. I want to know what my next step is, but I simply don’t yet.
How do we foster patience in circumstances we literally can’t change (yet)?
Well, we need to leave room for mistakes.
Meaning, I don’t need 100% on the first quiz. Meaning, I don’t actually need an A in biology at all.
Meaning, when other people do things that make you impatient (they’re late to a meeting, their temper gets the best of them, they’re flaky with schedules and this is the fourth time you’ve tried to set a coffee date with them), we need to allow them to have imperfections.
No one will ever meet their standards on the first try. No one will have all the information they need the first time they attempt a complex task. Mistakes lead to understanding which leads to growth.
We also need to find inner peace.
I wish I could create a beautiful novel on the first go. Then I could avoid the whole gross process of revision and cut straight to the final product.
But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, I need to find peace in the fact that my writing won’t be good. Probably for the first ten to twenty rounds of revision. But there’s growth. There’s progress.
In essence, patience is simply an observance of growth. Instead of a “right here, right now” mindset, we’re just seeing what happens next. We’re just watching ourselves bloom into the potential we expected on the outset and admiring the beauty that resulted from patience and waiting.
Self-Control Out of Respect for Oneself
And the worst one of all: self-control.
Just kidding. Self-control is actually really helpful, I just struggle with this on a daily basis.
A few days ago, I was feeling sad so I bought five blankets online. I didn’t actually need five blankets (three probably would have been enough to decorate my living room). But I thought maybe retail therapy could make me feel better (but no… it still doesn’t).
Last week, I missed the bus because I failed to leave my apartment on time. It’s not that I was doing anything important in my apartment… I was just dragging my feet.
And even this blog post is a product of my failure to self-control. I once again chose to watch TV, or read, or spend two hours making Instagram reels, instead of regularly working on my blog posts.
The consequence of lacking self-control is quite simple: everything becomes harder for future you.
I feel behind on my goals because I don’t have the self-control to complete them in the first place.
This is why I always have a long list of chores and homework to do on Sundays… because I failed to set aside enough time on Saturday for these things.
And why I often feel stressed out about spending money… because I do so at random times without a real plan.
But what if I always did what I said I would?
And not because I should or must, but because I respect myself and others enough to do things on time.
I respect my future self enough to lessen her load. And save her money. And wake up earlier so she doesn’t miss the bus.
I respect my friends enough to show up on time. And not be flaky with my schedule. And be available when they need me.
I respect myself enough to commit to forming habits, not just subscribing to an ideal.
And self-control, incidentally, relates a lot to faithfulness and patience.
I’ll need to be patient with myself since I’m not super practiced in the art of self-control. Sometimes I’ll fail to reach my expectations. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try at all.
Self-control, patience, and faithfulness all have to do with waiting too. There isn’t instant gratification for patiently waiting for situations to work out. There is no clear end point in a season, so staying faithful is really a long term commitment.
But while self-control doesn’t always sound like fun, I believe that using self-control to become more faithful and patient will ultimately lead to a better life in this present season.