Endings and Beginnings

 

Writing this week’s post felt a bit strange.  Since it’s both the end of the term and the end of the year, I feel like I’m caught up in this weird cataclysm of endings and beginnings (especially since I write for all of you and it’s my last post of 2011).  So I thought I should share my take on how to make the best of this time of year as a point of mindful reflection.

I repeat: It’s the end of the semester and the end of the year.  Somehow, by the forces of time and that of our great institution (it’s up to you to add the appropriate punctuation to great, if you know what I mean), we are forced to look back on what was, and what will be.  We question how we fared in school, the good and the bad, but perhaps more important, how we fared on a more personal level.

Looking back on my academic year thus far, I experienced proud moments, but also, what felt like catastrophic incidents that threatened to undermine my academic rigor.  It may sound alarming, and I admit, I *may* be exaggerating, but when one gets a “bad” mark, especially after so much effort, it feels like a sharp blow to the core. I think it is important to be mindful of one’s feelings.  At the end of it, contrary to the paradigm of optimism, I don’t feel inclined to say: “Wow. What a great learning experience that was!”  And you don’t have to, either.  Quite honestly, we all have the points in our academic career where we get upset, but sometimes I think we are all culturally disposed to take every experience, good and bad, as a great learning experience.  I’m here to tell you its ok to look back and not be happy, and not see it as profound.  And why is that?  Because we are human.  Scream, shout, be mad, cry; it’s ok.  Having experiences means its reasonable, in fact normal, to be subjective.  If you feel like school sucked in 2011, then so be it.  Allow yourself to feel emotion, but don’t let it control you.  Learn to find a balance between expression and internal awareness.  You may want to just freak out for an hour, but give yourself the permission to relax afterwards.

But, as I mentioned, it is also the time of new beginnings.  2011 may have sucked, but that doesn’t mean 2012 has to.  Look at the new beginning as an opportunity to experience mindfulness. You don’t need to approach the New Year through the lens of optimism, just as you don’t need to look back on your experiences in 2011 as all fantastic.  Every year people make resolutions and don’t keep them, even on the first day.  Being overly optimistic doesn’t mean only good will come.  So, what I am trying to say is be reasonable.  I try to always be reasonable, don’t overestimate yourself, and anything better than that is just fine.  Think of how you might do things differently, in school or life, in 2012, or conversely, how you want to keep them the same.  Perhaps the only resolution you need, is not to have one at all.

This is just one way of reflecting.  I guess I came up with it because I was tired of all you hard-core optimists out there. I don’t really have any theory behind it, except years of experience of learning to let myself be mindful and at peace with rather unnerving aspects of life. This may sound passive, but on the contrary, I am pretty obsessive when it comes to negative aspects of the past, so I suggest giving yourself the permission to not obsess, but instead to be at peace.

Desirée

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