In my post last week, here, I talked about how silent and calm times are often followed by busy times. This is what happened with me last fall (calm times) and then this winter (busy times). I would normally expect myself to be very overwhelmed, especially given that all the things that happened were very important things for my life (dissertation defense, moving out, job applications -all big things-). However, I was calmer than I usually would be. Perhaps the most peaceful I have ever been. Then, of course, I started thinking why and how. Here is what I found.
I experienced a very hard time last spring (my wedding was called off one month before the actual date). As hard as it was, it taught me the biggest life lesson that helped me be calm in the recent busy times: you cannot control everything. It sounds cheesy, but here is how it helped me: The dissertation defense is the culmination of years of study and it shows what it was worth. We are challenged by questions during the defense and we need to be really prepared and hope that we will be able to answer the questions in the best way. It is really stressful. However, based on my experience last spring, I had become fully convinced that there are so many things I cannot control. I can’t control or predict what questions will be asked; I cannot control the result (will I pass or not?); I cannot control people’s reactions to my research. All I can control is my preparation. I should design the presentation as clearly as I can, try to predict some questions that might come up (and there is no way I can predict all questions) and find potential answers (and I may not have answers to these questions), go over the research cited in my dissertation in case I need to refer to them. Anything beyond this, I cannot do anything about. That is how I stayed so calm before and during the defense. I only focused on what I needed to do but not on the results, not on things I actually cannot control. Similarly, when I applied for jobs, all I can do is tailor my resume and apply. Anything after that is not my responsibility.
I learnt this because when my marriage was called off, I tried to control the situation but I couldn’t. That taught me the biggest lesson of my life: don’t try to control things that you cannot. It is a waste of energy. And I am loving this version of me. This is who I wanted to be for years. So, I am grateful for all the hard times.
What are some of the things you learnt through hard experiences? Do you try to control more things than you can? How do you deal with it? Let’s discuss.