Has anyone else done a double-take recently when looking at a calendar? It’s August already. (Really. Really?) Many of my colleagues and I have remarked that this summer has flown by much faster than we anticipated. With many items still unchecked on my summer to-do list, I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and not fixate on the tasks that remain to be done.
I admit, I am one of those people who has difficulty living in the present. I am easily preoccupied with what needs to be done, how it will get done, and when it will get done. So at this point in the year, with student arrivals, orientations, and fall semester programs approaching ever so rapidly, I find myself feeling a bit anxious about things to come, and also a bit regretful about numerous summer tasks left unfinished.
In times like this, I try to intentionally center myself in the here and now. It’s easier said than done, but earlier this summer, a professional development session helped drive this idea home for me. The College of Saint Elizabeth hosted a leadership seminar that I attended with many of my fellow Student Lifers and other CSE colleagues. Over the course of four half-day sessions, the presenter (Brother Loughlan Sofield,) challenged us to consider how effective leadership relates to forgiveness, community-building, and self-esteem, among other concepts I would not have automatically connected to leadership.
Given my tendency to think and plan ahead, a particular point struck a chord with me. The presenter urged us to “Think tenses.” He explained that our natural inclination is to think about “what was, what should be, and what could be.” While reflecting on the past and envisioning possibilities are necessary exercises in all aspects of our lives, he also encouraged us to think in terms of “what is.”
We can apply this deceptively simple concept to our work in higher education. In our everyday planning, we might get sidetracked in recalling programs from the past (what was), or we might dream of all the great things we could do for our students if only we had more robust budgets (what should be), or we might worry too much about how to function in the coming year with open positions and hiring freezes (what could be). Think tenses. Focus on the present. Think about what is, and go from there.
So as we get ready for move-in days and countless hours of orientation, let’s each try to stay grounded in what is. I once witnessed a student ask a university president to share her own personal slogan, and she responded, “Be here now.” As we enter the new academic year with an eye to the future, let’s also keep our feet firmly planted in the present. It’s a gift we can give to ourselves and to our students.
Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs at the College of Saint Elizabeth
TJA Member at Large