Monday, March 30, 2015

A Finish Line

In the last week, while undertaking a Master’s program in History I have realized some truths about myself.  In this case, some truths take precedence over others, but here’s what I understand.
First, I’m smart, but there are a lot of people who are smarter than me.  I think many of them are in the program with me.  I mentioned in my last blog how reading the online posts from my classmates made me feel outclassed.  I wondered if I had done the right thing by getting into the program.  Like many people I was given (and, worse, believed) message after message about how I was not as smart and not as capable as those around me. 
However, there is a greater truth: lack of experience is often mistaken for lack of intelligence.
In the 1980’s there was a game called Trivial Pursuit.  Generally the winners of this game were people who had read more (an ability anyone can cultivate) or people who were older and simply knew more through being around longer.  The game was about the pursuit of the trivial.  It didn’t require a higher IQ, just a little more reading (or some accidental exposure to facts) and a few more years of life.  Each of my colleagues brings different experiences and that makes them good at what they do.  My experiences make me good at what I do, too.
With regard to my colleagues, I have no doubt that some are smarter than me, and maybe some aren’t, and maybe some are just as smart as me. Obviously I’m intelligent or I wouldn’t have been accepted into the program at all. But here’s the thing:  it’s not intelligence that will help me reach my goal; it’s determination.
Here’s another truth:  determination comes at more than one level.  Obviously the determination to finish the program is needed.  But so is the determination to finish the homework each week.    So is the determination to do the necessary readings.  So is the determination to stay focused.  That’s my biggest struggle – staying focused, sometimes from moment to moment.  Maybe I need meds.  Or maybe I need to learn specific strategies to stay focused.  Or maybe I need to accept who I am and work with it.  What I realize is that we all have obstacles.  Every one of the students in the program is struggling with something that makes this program more difficult.  Steven Pressfield said, “Here’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t:  the hard part isn’t doing the writing.  The hard part is sitting down to do the writing.”  It’s the same for students.  The work itself is challenging.  But it’s not as challenging as getting to the work, getting past the fear, past the distractions, and embracing the commitment to put aside everything else and sit with my Muse and work.

Yesterday I finished a huge project and submitted it.  There’s a (good) chance the professor will send it back for revisions.  I don’t care.  I got it done.  If I have to fix it, I’ll fix it.  If I don’t, then I will have a very happy moment.  Either way it will be done, now or later.  But when I finished it, I felt like celebrating.  I anticipate many celebrations like that in the next 17 months and one week.  There will be many times when I can say, “I did it!  I finished it!  I slayed the dragon!  I was able to Get Started and Keep Going…all the way to a finish line!”