I keep seeing this meme popping up on social media reminding us that we have barely over a month left in this decade and so we better getting working to accomplish that big goal before the decade ends. I suppose it’s helpful for some people. It serves as a reminder that life is short and we can’t necessarily put our dreams on hold. But for me, as a person with mild to moderate anxiety, these messages fuel an unhealthy inner monologue. I begin to wonder if I really have done enough. If I’m not careful, I start ruminating on projects I didn’t finish or goals I didn’t accomplish or the fact that I’m still a solid twenty-five pounds overweight.
There’s an implied message that we need to do something BIG. We need to finish that big project. We need to go on that big vacation we’ve always wanted to go on. And I get it. Artificial goalposts (like the end of a decade) can spur us out of complacency and give us the permission to do something epic. And yet, I wonder if the epic life isn’t always BIG. What if it’s small? What if it’s humble? What if it’s so common that we miss just how amazing it actually is?
Last week, I played catch with my sons almost every day. We went to the batting cages twice. I read with my daughter and we drew pictures together and she told me stories about her friends. I went on a date with my wife. I got to teach a class of pre-service teachers who blew me away with their ideas about project-based learning. That’s epic.
If you’re a teacher, you might look at these memes with the thought of doing something big and amazing. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Go take that risk. Try something new. Experiment. But also recognize that teaching is hard and exhausting. The air is colder the light is more scarce. It’s okay to do less. One of the best pieces of advice I got as a new teacher was hardly a piece of advice. It was an affirmation from my principal who said, “John, don’t chase perfection. You are enough. You’ve done enough. It’s not perfect but it’s good honest work. Now go home.”
It’s easy to see the decade approaching and think we need to sprint through the finish line. Add one more big accomplishment. Have one more amazing experience. But what if we approached this time as an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve done? Or better yet, what if we used this time to reflect on what we believe and what we value? Or maybe we could just reflect on who we love and why the people in our lives are what matter most?