I'm not sure if this has anything to do with how I turned out, but the day I moved to Mississippi my Dad called me and said (in a voice that sounded like a game show host), Are you ready for the first day of the rest of your life? And I wasn't ready because I was still running errands, packing boxes, and trying to feign preparedness for the next two years of my life, though they remained 100% a mystery to me. My Dad is both sentimental and funny, (sound familiar?) so off-hand silly comments like this from him are a crucial part of his parenting and advice-giving. These comments have proven to be remarkably apt recently, especially in a conversation we had the other day.
I had called my Mom to talk about money, because I am very good at having it but not particularly good at keeping it, and she put my Dad on. While I was catching up with him and detailing my school life and how hectic it has been, I started talking about future assignments and what all I have to complete before finally driving back for Christmas. He said:
You know how to eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
And though people had been telling me that for weeks, to take things just one day at a time, hearing that advice echoed in this totally spot-on Dad way struck me in a way I didn't expect. I had been hearing this advice and giving this advice to others, but not really putting it into practice in a real way.
This has been my challenge. I am trying to be a good student and plan ahead, but just looking at my calendar sends me into a panic. The weeks all seem so close together on the page! It's one thing after another for me now. No rest. Even this fall break that I'm on is just an excuse to be distracted from my homework. In my weaker moments, I am thinking about the entire semester, the entire two-year program all at once: papers, teaching, reading, writing. It is all too, too much.
Usually the phrase goes that people "can't see the forest for the trees", but my problem is that I can see the forest and it frightens me. If I can think about just today or just this week, and shrink my to-do lists down to bite-size portions, I think I can do it.
One tree at a time, he says.