Cheers to You: The Work of Celebration
My forced soul sabbatical is going about as I imagined.
I spent much of the first week binging Netflix, but all the while battling feelings of failure. Although I was thoroughly enjoying Dead to Me, I was also playing that same sad tape over and over again in my mind: ‘I am a year out from getting my PhD and this is where I am? Without full-time work, piecing together a career from academic scraps?’
I did make good on one promise. I started meeting up with friends. You know, those people who you always say, “We need to get together,” yes, we finally got together.
It was a simple meetup at one of my favorite coffee shops. What I loved was that small talk dove into deep conversation quickly. Despite my usual disposition of the patient listener, all my current woes started spilling out.
Side note: never underestimate a fresh perspective on your situation. She asked one question that shut everything down.
“Do you ever stop and celebrate your successes?”
No, of course not. I don’t celebrate. Who has time when you rush from task to task in a never-ending cycle of work? Besides, celebrating feels too much like grace. Like I’ve arrived. Like I should be, dare I say, happy… which feels so dangerously temporary.
Author Brene Brown has a great take on this from her book Daring Greatly (and if you’re not into reading, she discusses this concept in her current Netflix special, The Call to Courage, as well). She calls it “foreboding joy.” It’s that sense of dread we feel that runs right alongside happiness. We just know goodness will give way to something terrible. For some, she says, they “rehearse tragedy,” which is when they play the worst-case-scenario game. While I do that as well, my joy avoidance usually comes in the way of working. If I keep piling on projects and never celebrate, never rest, I can’t be disappointed when that new shiny happy feeling wears off.
But that’s now how it works.
This doesn’t make me feel anything more than just tired. So very tired. Not to mention that I’m forgetful of all my accomplishments while keeping my struggles all too front and center. I won’t just burn out… I’ll spontaneously combust.
So, yes, I’m resting, but I’m also celebrating. I’m taking this season to reflect on a great year of teaching. I’m recognizing the fears that I’ve conquered and all that I’ve learned. I’m dwelling in that “now thing.”
Over coffee, my friend reminded me that my ambitious drive needn’t lay dormant. I have something to do this season. I need to actively pursue my interests and the activities that fill me up. There are books to read, sushi to eat, and rest to be had. That’s my new job.
Okay then. Off I go. I’ve got work to do.