Thursday, September 23, 2010

the prize mentality.

{photo via Jess LC}
 
Hi, my name is Annie, and I believe in retail therapy.

Perhaps this comes as a shock to you. I mean, don’t I strike you as a fairly rational, practical being?

Too bad.

After life’s particularly difficult moments have been overcome, I believe in a little self-indulgence. Prizes, if you will.

Impress the boss at work? Prize.

Stay up late to finish writing that paper? Prize.

Help your law student husband pass the bar exam? Prize.

Burn dinner and manage not to cry? Prize.

Successfully make it through another week? Prize.

This may sound excessive. But before you call Jordan and warn him that his wife has a problem, take note: He already knows, and he approves. Or at least, he too, has succumbed to the power of the prize.

Finish law school? Prize.

Pass the bar exam? Prize.

Get a new job? Prize.

I should probably clarify that prizes don’t have to be expensive. In fact, sometimes the gifts I give myself don’t cost a dime. If I successfully make it through 50 pages of Plato’s Phaedrus, I reward myself with an episode of Glee. If I study all day Saturday, I go out to dinner with Jordan Saturday night. If I finish my work assignment on time, I drink a Coke.

This process isn’t so much retail therapy as it is a rewards program.

And it works.

So this week, when I came this close to withdrawing from graduate school — the paperwork was in my hand — I came up with the perfect reward to help me make it through the semester.

A necklace. It’s one I’ve wanted for months. I’m fairly certain I even featured it on this post a few weeks back. At the time, though, I wasn’t sure which necklace I wanted. Each one has a separate saying, and I just didn’t know which would mean more to me.

Be brave.

Dream bigger.

Be thankful.

Breathe.

Let’s face it, any given day I could use all of those reminders.

But then, it hit me, right smack-dab in the middle of my face.

Be present.

That’s what I want to remind myself every waking minute: to be present, in the moment, every moment.

These four weeks have been harder than I’ve mentioned on the blog, harder than I’ve mentioned to most of my friends. (In fact, if I haven’t called you, emailed you, or Facebooked you, consider this my apology and my excuse.)

It comes as a bit of a shock when you realize an old dream might not fit a newer you.

Adding graduate school to an already full and abundant life has proved to be a daunting challenge. After a month of assignments and readings and projects, I’m still feeling unsure and uneasy about this whole process, not because I’m incapable, but because I have this built-in mechanism that automatically makes school and school-related things a priority. And that’s not my life anymore.

You probably think I’m crazy. If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you know how important a graduate education has been to me. I’ve wanted one ever since graduating from undergrad, and the truth is, part of me still really wants one.

But there’s another, maybe bigger, part of me that instead wants life.

I want to be able to fully drink up every moment that life has to offer, and I personally have great difficulty doing that with group projects looming overhead.

When I stand before the throne of my Father one day, I don’t think He’ll ask me if I got a master’s degree. I think He’ll ask me if I loved my husband. I don’t think He’ll ask me what kind of grades I earned or how much homework I did. I think He’ll look at me and say, “Daughter? Did you enjoy it? Did you soak up every sunset, every late night, every relationship? Did you find me in the lazy Saturdays and quiet Sundays and yes, even the dreary Mondays? Or did you wish it all away? Did you lose track? Did you get caught up in the frenzied chaos? Daughter, did you waste it? Or did you treasure it and live it?”

I know what I want my answer to be.

After a few days of uncertainty, I am choosing to finish this semester. After that, who knows?

But as I march through the remaining weeks until December, I plan on loving the moments.

I’ve lost sight of them in the past few weeks.

So a prize has been purchased. The mail is on its way.

And as I sat telling my brother about my latest reward, he looked at me in awe.

As it turns out, my brother believes in the prize mentality as well. After every passed exam, a prize.

So yesterday, after voiding my withdrawal papers, Chet bought season one of Modern Family. We sat on my couch and watched three episodes together.

Maybe I don't need the necklace as much as I needed the reminder. But I do like a good prize.

12 comments:

AbbieBabble said...

Congratulations on making that tough choice. I, too, am a big fan of the prize method- it definitely helps to have something to look forward to!

Four Flights said...

This is such a wonderful post. I especially liked the part about standing before our Father. I am never present enough, but you know what? Me going back to work HAS made me become more present with my children. My time is so much more precious now, it's just sad that it took me going back to work to realize this. Lovely necklace. When you get it you should take a picture of yourself wearing it and post!

sashyjane said...

Such a great motivator! The only time the prize mentality fails is when I'm dieting and I decide I deserve pie as a prize. After every meal. :)

jenna said...

I love you, Annie.
I wish we lived closer so some of these conversations could take place in person. I have had a rough few weeks too - different reasons. Maybe I need to incorporate this rewards system of retail therapy. I think right now I am just a slight shopaholic. This may remedy that in a healthier way. :)

Jess LC said...

What an incredible post!! I loved this so, so much. It totally captures what the Franklin Collection is all about.

Sabrina said...

Annie...you know my eyes focused on the part about grad. school! Call me please if you can, you can vent or just talk. You tear those papers right up and all the negative thoughts with them b/c I am fully sure that you are where you are supposed to be. Praying for you and missing you:)

katie said...

Love!! It took me awhile to decide between Be Brave and Be Present and i finally chose Be Present... good choice!

Betsy said...

Seriously, I really wished we lived closer together. I think that we would be what Anne and Diana call "bosom friends".

Although I am not married yet, I still understand exactly how you feel about graduate school being a priority when it shouldn't necessarily be. This semester for me has been horrible. Absolutely horrible. Not a day has gone by that I haven´t felt stressed and frustrated over the fact that I constantly feel the pressure to put school over the other parts of my life--even my family, friends, and faith.

It's in those times, though, when I remember the words of a sermon that I heard a few years ago: Satan attacks most those by whom he feels the most threatened.

I know that for the time being, God has opened the doors for me to be here getting this degree. It seems that He opened the doors for you, too. And while it may only be for a short time (and not necessarily to actually finish the degree), there is also the possibility that God needs for you to to finish this degree in order for you to be able to take up a position for Him later on.

Either way, I admire your positivity about the whole thing! I've been struggling with motivation this semester and I think I'm going to try this reward system!

S.E.Minegar said...

great post. i can completely identify. balancing grad school and a full time job exhausts me. i am now reading for my exams and have had multiple "i want to stop the insanity" moments. rewards (even the tiniest) really make a difference.

i too have had the "be present" necklace on my wishlist. most days, i'm anything but present...resume building, maximizing my life, balancing commitments, etc. i'm hard on myself and have trouble enjoying what's around me.

here's to being present!

stephanie said...

i think i will incorporate prizes into my daily life - i often feel so overwhelmed with things to do that i don't do anything. but...i did just take a big step forward - i signed up for some classes that i've been debating on taking for years. and i'm thrilled. and scared.

i should get a prize for this.

Jillian said...

I think it's coincidental - or maybe serendipitous - that I stumbled on this post and your blog today via Jess LC literally minutes after writing in my journal about how confused I am about my new life as a graduate student. High school and college me got really good grades, never settling for mediocrity, worked 20 hours a week, participated in extra-curricular activities and went to the gym five days a week. And, I can't figure out why graduate me just can't get it together no matter how hard I try. The worst part is knowing I used to be able to handle this kind of stress and not measuring up to my old self. I'm sticking with it because it's a means to an end, but damn, sometimes it's really hard.

Lynn said...

Thank you for reminding someone a whole lot older than you that there are more important things in life than what we obtain by the world's standards. I think I might need to order that necklace, too. I seem to have lost sight of how to "be present", instead I am always looking back, wishing for what was or looking ahead wishing for what may be. I've kind of forgotten how to just be present and live in the moment. Your words are so moving and I am so proud to have had the pleasure of being your teacher once a long time ago.