Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Last Lesson in 2011

I've always pushed myself academically, physically, psychologically, intellectually, and professionally; not because I've felt pressure from others to do so, but simply because I know that I am capable of doing more and doing better.  It's only right, I feel.  My thinking is that if I've been given the ability to do something, then I should give it my best effort. Giving it anything less would be ungrateful.

Operating under such a theory can get you pretty far, but there comes a point when you realize you're just doing too much - or at least too much to be effective in any one pursuit.  And toward the end of 2011, this is the point I reached. My schedule had me spread too thin to do much of anything very well, and I was no longer able to put as much effort as I wanted into any one task because there was always a list of thirty more behind it, all needing to be completed by sundown.  The self-inflicted pressure has started to wear on me, to say the least, and I've realized during the past few weeks that I need to stop feeling guilty about taking a little time to relax.  In fact, I've found that some time off during the past few days has rejuvenated me and boosted my motivation and productivity during work time.

One evening in mid-December it hit me that I only have about a month to get my grad school applications together, and that's on top of starting my last semester and finishing my thesis, as well as preparing for job interviews (in case I don't get into either graduate program).
 The worst part is preparing for the GMAT -- a big hairy standardized test that basically serves as the SAT for business school.  Even though my practice test last month put me in the 99th percentile for the verbal section, my quantitative scores were down in the 33rd percentile in Arithmetic Permutations and as low as the 13th percentile in Algebra.  I was feeling overwhelmed and defeated and certainly not confident that I could pull my quantitative scores up enough to qualify for either of the programs I'm applying to.  I've taken the absolute minimum number of math classes in college and avoid equations at all costs. I mean, isn't it enough that I learned all the equations and mathematical principles needed to get an A in Finance?!  The GMAT appears to be a death sentence for my grad school applications.

I'm generally not a complainer, so I think my half-hour rant about everything I have to do and how certain I am of failing made it pretty clear that something was bothering me.  My mom came up later and said to me, "Hey, don't worry, everything's going to be fine. We're all proud of you and whatever you choose to do, we're going to be happy for you as long as you're happy."  That did make me feel better, but I also realized that what everyone else thought wasn't my first concern - the reason I was feeling so disappointed is because I felt like I was letting myself down, not them. I've always known my parents and family love me and are proud of me, and perhaps that's why the most pressure comes from my own idea of success. It's time for me to redefine some goals, though, because right now they're too broad and open-ended. I'm going crazy trying to be prepared for every opportunity, when I haven't even decided which one I really want to pursue.

Yesterday my mom (being the crazy math-loving aeronautical engineer that she is) took my sister and I to Barnes & Noble to help me study for the GMAT.  Hunkered down in the back corner of the book store, my sister finished the last of Romeo and Juliet while I worked tirelessly through a review of math basics, and my mom stood by as an on-call math tutor while flipping through art and design magazines.  She was reading through a few quotes in a garden craft section when suddenly she leaned over,
"Oh, this is good one..."

We can do no great things,
only small things with great love.
-Mother Teresa



I've thought about these words several times since yesterday, and each time I'm touched by the way she subtly emphasizes that it's not so much about what we do, but how we do it.  I'm always going to push myself to my limits, I'm sure - it's just my personality - but I'm learning that there are times to stop, breathe, relax, and remember what really makes a life great

4 comments:

  1. Same here - I've been working too hard all the year and it's been too much. You always need some breathing space to see a broader image of what's going on, to analyze and come up with new ideas. That's impossible when you schedule is stuffed with events and todo items. Especially when you need to be creative.

    Happy New Year, Shirah, it's good to know and I like your writing, keep up with it :)

    С новы годом, пусть он будет успешным!

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  2. Спасибо, Глеб!

    I know you and Olga are so busy and work a ton!! I hope you've had some time off around the holidays. Did your Kindle ever arrive from America?

    Счастливого нового года!

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  3. JWTS (Just Wanted To Say):
    I was pleased that your initial emphasis on keeping busy during the holidays kind of melted into a more relaxed version of relaxation. I'm happy that you didn't dive deep into a project here at [my] work, and instead pursued the more therapeutic jogs in the morning with the dog, and just sleeping in 'til 8. I hope my example (of sleeping in 'til 10) was an aid to you. It was a fun week between the holidays, and I'm glad to have had you home with us.
    Love,
    -Dad

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