Only one more week in balmy California, the best state ever!! One of my prayers for the summer was to be rejuvenated and refreshed in my mind and re-focused and re-excited about my studies. And thankfully God has already refreshed me and encouraged me on three separate occasions, reminding me of my “vocation” he’s given me, the vision I have for my life, and made me more excited that right now I’m working towards doing exactly what I want to be doing, so I can endure this next year of school.
One of my summer reading books is called “Awakening the Quieter Virtues”, by Greg Spencer, a Westmont communications professor. There is a chapter on Contentment in the book, which really spoke into my life at this moment. Toward the end of the chapter Spencer talks about the skill of dying to yourself, or certain ideas that you have, telling the truth about your life, re-naming and framing your situations, and detaching yourself from certain ideas or comparisons you have about life and the lives of others around you. These are all great helps with contentment, but there are two below that I think are especially relevant to Graduate students and to my life:
The principle of “detachment” is the “freedom from obsessing over results.” By detaching ourselves from the results of our actions, as they are not usually in our control, we are free to focus on our faithfulness to the task in front of us and not the results. An example of this would be as a teacher in the classroom, sometimes no matter what we do, a student is not learning. By detaching ourselves from the results, we can focus on just being as faithful as possible to the job of teaching that we have been given, and then be content with our faithfulness to the task, instead of discontent with the non-learning students. Or if we don’t get the grade we wanted on an assignment. As long as we are faithful to the work and to the “duty of the situation”, we can be content no matter what the results end up being. Contentment then will come as long as we are faithful to our tasks and detached from the results of our tasks, which may vary.
Re-framing the situation is also a huge factor that helps with contentment. In my own life this past year, I’ve been around a lot of negative people who complain about the conditions they are forced to work in, the people they work with, the students they have in their classes, and the stresses that come with being a full-time student AND a full-time Graduate Assistant. Instead of saying, “These responsibilities are so hard and they stress me out all of the time, I have no free time,” you can re-frame the situation by saying “This is an opportunity for me to learn all I can about teaching and my area of study, and a challenge for me to learn how to manage time well.” Or instead of saying “My students are so slow and give me such a hard time in class,” you can say “this is an opportunity for me to learn how to teach and interact with certain types of students.” This is not just an annoying optimistic trick, but a counter to the poison that complaining brings into your life.
Reading this chapter was really refreshing to me (i wish everyone I worked with could read it!) and even though I thought before that I was doing pretty well with contentment, I look forward to practicing contentment in my life and responsibilities this coming school year.