End-of-year update: 2022 was a year of contentment amidst a year of surprises. Although the end of the year looked much different than the beginning of the year, I noticed that I am much more content at this moment than I have been in years despite ending the year with even more uncertainty of my long-term path.
In review, I persevered through a difficult second semester to end the 21-22 year. Although I excelled on paper–teaching my first college course, straight A’s in my doctorate program, and continuing to succeed at work–the stress of my schedule led me to face several anxious bouts that led to many restless nights, and additional stress that led to a stress-related urgent care visit. Once the semester ended, I was relieved, but in the back of my mind, I was very worried about the beginning of the new academic year with an amped-up doctorate load and a fall season with uncertainty in my work schedule with another new administration change in my department.
The summer was a time of relaxation and rejuvenation overall. The highlight of the summer was the beginning of my first dating relationship in over five years. The progression was slow and natural, and it was a much-needed pace amidst a crazy season of life overall. Outside of this relationship, I was still sensing the stress was creeping up on me as I entered the fall. I did not realize how thin my margin of error was until I was involved in a serious car crash in the middle of August. Although I am thankful I was miraculously not hurt by the crash, the inconvenience of not having a car for a few weeks was difficult as the stressful fall semester was beginning.
As I progressed through the start of the fall semester, there were many moments of positivity, however, the anticipated anxiety from the end of the spring semester returned, leading to yet another set of increased anxiety and panic bouts. I took out my stress through eating and gained around 40 pounds in a noticeably short span of time. After leaving a class session on a Tuesday night feeling more distraught than ever, I had another set of serious conversations talking to people in my support circle that evening. Over the next several days, I lived with the decision that I was going to suspend my doctorate studies indefinitely prior to officially making that decision by the end of that week. Although at one level I was disappointed, the largest feeling I had post-decision was an immediate sense of relief. I loved the program immensely, but balancing a doctorate program with my current job situation became too much to bear.
Taking the added responsibility in the program off my plate was important as I still had a packed fall semester at Judson from an employment standpoint. The new athletic administration model called for added responsibilities in addition to my teaching two new classes on the side (Wellness and GEN 101). Being busy helped me not think too much about the recent decision I had made, but it also prolonged my ability for the decision to “settle in” until this holiday break began in December.
The semester recently ended and another chapter in my life closed as well. My then-girlfriend and I separated amicably as we realized that our life aspirations did not line up enough to continue forward. We really sensed God guiding us both in the week leading up to our official breakup and were confident that he has plans for us that we do not foresee, which led us to both be at peace with that decision.
Now that all this change is finally settling in, I am overall at peace with where my future is despite the uncertainty with what lies ahead in my life, career, relationship status, health, etc. I am still very content with my employment in the Judson Athletic Department, I am teaching a personal-“record” six credits worth of courses this spring, I have a new set of fitness goals, and I have a few other irons in the fire with my Minds of Meaning venture and additional side hustles (more on that to come). Also, I will continue to not pursue my doctorate studies this upcoming semester and will consider potential re-entry into the program on a semester-by-semester basis. I am very content with that unsolved potential in the interim.
To conclude, a few lessons I learned from all of this in 2022.
1. Life is complex:
It is quite easy for us to think linearly about what we must do in life to be “successful” and become overwhelmed by that notion. Give yourself grace and know that each day even the smallest successes should be celebrated. Heck, I am writing this at the end of what I considered an “unproductive” day, and this post alone is worth celebrating as a success. What the world sees as success is evolving, and more importantly, every person can make their own decisions and dictate what success is in their own eyes. Do not let the “shame attendant” (credit: Dr. Curt Thompson) interfere with your life.
2. Big, long-term goals are great, but you can make an impact in the smallest ways as well:
I had been living (and grading my life’s efforts) by a sense of achievement. I would ask myself, “did what I did today lead me toward something great?” Defining “greatness” is another conversation. I came to realize that striving for the “platform” can often lead to selfish decisions. Instead, in a world where people are often judged from platform positions, we can arguably make much more of a difference in the mundane, day-to-day relationships that we are in. Instead, I will be much more at peace if my daily question is this: “Was I able to bless someone else or myself today?” I say “bless myself” not in a selfish way but as an aside knowing that we need to take care of ourselves, too.
3. Never put yourself in a situation that is well beyond your stress limit:
As an achiever and a loyalist, I often strive to work hard to please others. The stress I put myself under in the first several months of 2022 I wish upon nobody, and I will never let myself get to that point again for my own sanity. As my dad says, you are only as good at what you do if you are able to balance and take care of your own self (paraphrased).
4. Continue to rely on your community and the people in your corner.
It is important that we continue to find community as we live in a world that continues to allow survival amidst isolation. Technology is great, I will be the first person to advocate for that; however, remote work and other technological adventures can allow us to be separated from others for an extended amount of time. One of the more significant sources of healing for me this year was the intentionality of being in the community and allowing myself to know that I am never alone. If you are in a position where you are not able to physically attend many gatherings, feel free to pick up the phone and call someone that you trust and continue to build relationships in that manner. I am fairly sure that you will not regret time in community with others.
In addition to community, I encourage anyone to consider seeing a counselor at least quarterly, if not more. I see a counselor virtually weekly, and it helps me immensely to process my thoughts.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope that you can resonate with some of my experiences as we move forward together in 2023. Have a Happy New Year!