I have always relished the optimism of beginning a new month. As I turn the page on the calendar, I love the opportunity to take stock and start afresh. It’s as if all the month’s shortcomings and regrets are wiped clean and anything is possible. Birthdays, new years, and the start of each academic year all give me the same sense of potential, just on a bigger scale.
I thought that starting this school year would provide the ultimate in fresh starts. After 18 months of working from home, my pre-pandemic routines were truly a thing of the past. During shelter-in-place I developed a greater understanding of the rhythms and habits that feed me. Things like quiet mornings, building my strength and balance, devoting time for writing and learning. I reflected on what I missed out there in the world, as well as the unexpected wins after being forced to retreat from it. Armed with these reflections and a whole lot of excitement about re-opening Gateway’s campuses, I felt ready.
At first, everything was great. Each day was filled with energy and laughter. I loved reconnecting with students and meeting a whole crop of new ones. Being around my colleagues reminded me how much they inspire me. Even my drive to school each morning felt like a treat; I drove through different neighborhoods, listened to podcasts, and enjoyed seeing people out and about in all their quirky beauty.
But, as it turned out, re-entry knocked me off my feet. I was out of shape and unprepared: physically for the demands and pace of everyday life and emotionally for the brutal imperfections and inequities that plague our world. Quickly, it felt like the opposite of a fresh start. One day rolled unconsciously and uncontrollably into the next with no time for rest and no power to change course. I felt controlled by my routine instead of the other way around.
Does this sound familiar to anyone else? How many of us committed to ourselves that when we re-entered the world following shelter-in-place, we would do things differently than before? How many of us vowed to incorporate new habits and practices? How many recognized that life before the pandemic wasn’t entirely satisfying and made plans to change things up?
How’s it going now?
Here’s the good news, it’s October 1st. (Rabbit Rabbit!) Another opportunity to turn the page and start fresh. Here are a couple suggestions to help.
Look up. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all that is on our plates or swirling in our minds. For me, this is how my fresh start begins to fade. I find that simply looking up makes a huge difference. Find a tree or a cloud or a bird in the sky. Take in the color of light. Anything that provides a bit of perspective and a moment to refocus.
And, ironically, don’t look up. I learned this lesson from riding a bicycle uphill. I love riding a bicycle and feeling so close to my surroundings. I love the feel of the wind as I speed up and how much quicker it is to get places than walking. Ok, let me be honest. I especially love riding an electric bike or riding where it’s entirely flat. I don’t love riding uphill at all. When I do have to ride up a hill, I have learned that my only chance for survival is to never look up. As long as I stay completely rooted in the exact moment I am in, rather than take in the entirety of the hill I am trying to climb, I can make it. In fact, I can even enjoy the challenge. This is a great metaphor for general challenges in life. When my to-do list feels impossible and my responsibilities start to swirl in my head, I find that if I just focus on the one thing I am doing at that moment, I KICK ASS. Give it a try.