Meditations on Gratitude
'Tis the season for pouring thanks into half-empty glasses
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One thing I’ve noticed about the genre of humans who set high standards for themselves is that we tend to fixate on deficits.
Time constraints, unfinished work, failed grant applications, missed deadlines, and unrealized goals are common topics of conversation around the academic water cooler. Moreover, we do not give ourselves credit for our accomplishments, like writing a book or completing a degree, until after we hold them in our hands.
Yet, what about the time we do have, the smaller tasks we successfully completed, the breakthroughs we achieved on complicated ideas that have yet to be published, and the everyday victories that contribute to our larger projects? We often assign so much importance to what is just out of reach at the moment that we overlook everything we currently hold in our hands.
This week, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time when they will get together with loved ones to give thanks for all that we have. Our hustle-driven culture encourages us to focus on what we do not yet have rather than appreciating what we do, so Thanksgiving becomes a much-needed day of rest from that hustle.
The very act of cultivating gratitude for what we do have in our careers can serve as a political tool to resist a work culture that endlessly pressures us to work harder because we always feel like we are not enough and need to push more. Embracing gratitude allows us to prioritize our well-being and find contentment in the present moment, rather than constantly striving for external validation.
When I sense myself starting to feel as if I’m not doing or accomplishing enough in my career, I make a list of everything that is going well, that fuels my curiosity, or that makes me feel fulfilled. I take note of the small victories and the incremental progress toward larger goals. The exercise enables me to fill that half-empty glass with things that are meaningful to me, rather than the expectations or structures of validation from my profession.
As we enter the season of giving thanks, I invite you to do the same. What are you thankful for this week, month, and year? What feels satisfying to you, regardless of the metrics that our profession values? What small victories have you had that we do not usually celebrate in this profession but that have made a difference in the things that matter to you?
As for me, I am grateful that
🌟 I finally got to teach a class that I had long wanted to and have a brilliant group of students to nerd out with.
🌟 because of that class is so stimulating, I decided to take on a research project that did not fit with my plans but is feeding my intellectual curiosity.
🌟 I have gained a fresh and liberating perspective on my scholarly identity.
🌟 Publish Not Perish has become my weekly delight that keeps on giving.
🌟 my little family continues to ground me in the knowledge that my life is so much more wondrous than my career.
So, dear reader, now it’s your turn. Make your list.
If you are feeling generous, I invite you to leave a comment as a political act that resists the hustle and instead chooses gratitude. We all want to celebrate you.