I am an atheist, but there is one thing that I read almost daily as though it were doctrine, and that is Desiderata. I have a very old framed copy of it that I inherited from my Aunt Jane. She obtained it on one of her adventures through North Africa in the ’60s. It’s hung in my hall and I read it while I brush my teeth. While I find solace in most of it, there are some passages that help me in my professional life, and I share these now for #lismentalhealth week.
I’ve written about imposter syndrome before. I suffer from it pretty much constantly. It, therefore, behooves me to remind myself of this – often:
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Superstars are over-rated. It’s unfortunate that our profession rewards elitism via invite-only institutions that will fast track your career to management/prestige, and by annual lists of People Who Matter, but there you have it. It’s there and how we react to it is what is under our control. It was a major revelation to me when I hit middle age that mediocrity is a really sweet spot to be in. I don’t mean mailing it in when you get to work everyday or being a lump until you can cash in on that sweet pension (forgive my privilege here as that is my own work situation – I’m truly fortunate). I mean being okay with going to work and doing your best. You don’t have to be The President of everything. Being the yeoman is totally okay, and sometimes, it’s the position where you get to have the most fun because you aren’t the Big Cheese and you’re not in the spotlight.
And you know what? If there’s a year or two (or three, or four) when you need to take a back seat and disengage for a while, that’s okay too.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
When you are on the tenure track/probation, or job hunting, sometimes you feel like you need to say yes to every opportunity presented to you. As someone in mid-career, I can definitely vouch for the fact that there will ALWAYS be more work to do, another volunteer position, another project to collaborate on. But there won’t always be time to spend with a loved one, or regenerating on your own, or taking a trip that just so happens to be available to you. Take care of you first – you will be no good to anyone if you burnout, most of all yourself. I’ll repeat – be gentle with yourself. We are our own worst critics and while that can be valuable for reflection, it can quickly turn to self-flagellation.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Your thoughts and feels are totally valid. Share them. Speak up. People are going to disagree with you and that’s okay. That’s why the phrase “we’re going to have to agree to disagree” was invented, so that you can still have your say, but be able to respond to the blowhard who thinks you’re wrong. That being said, be open to changing your mind. Stubbornness is a trait often celebrated from childhood onward, but damn if fighting with a donkey isn’t unpleasant. We need to allow our identities and ideas to reinvent and grow.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to admit when you made a mistake. I make mistakes all the time. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human. Learn from them, apologize, move on. Forgive others for their transgressions – grudges are probably the biggest waste of mental energy I can name.
Be careful with life, strive to be happy.
… and brush your teeth. Big love, all.