True Rest: Finding Comfort in the Work Even After the Job is Complete
In the movie "Megamind", the protagonist undergoes an identity crisis after defeating his nemesis and achieving what he thought was his ultimate goal in life. Although he could lavish in the spoils of glory with no resistance, he fell into ennui because everything he was doing was suddenly meaningless.
Sometimes an even greater challenge meets us when it seems we have finished the course. Many people provide advice for how to handle failure, but we often overlook how a grand victory also presents a slightly more subtle test of character.
About a month ago, I (finally) graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. As most of my fellow classmates would agree, that feat did not come easy — we fought through endless nights of homework, immense group projects, grueling study sessions, and more in order to reach this point in our lives. At long last, we have earned the degree which demonstrates all that we have endured and everything we are qualified to do. It would seem that many of us have tackled our lifelong nemesis. Having been in school for the majority of our lives, this mark would seem to be the glorious triumph we have endeavored to attain.
A common experience after reaching such a milestone is to feel a sense of relief, because now we can rest without the feeling of guilt. However, learning from the mistakes of "Megamind", how can we avoid falling into his state of discontent? After withstanding four years of rigorous education, it is good to take time to rest and recover; however, we must recognize that there is a proper way to make use of this sojourn to be prepared for the next stage of life.
I received clarity on the proper way to use my new time during an informational interview that I conducted over winter break. I asked a physical therapist, Dr. Sherif Elanaggar, for one key piece of advice that I should take with me in order to prepare for DSU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program this coming fall. His answer was for me to truly enjoy my final semester of undergraduate studies, as well as my summer vacation, by appreciating the work at hand, not stressing over the future that is sure to come, and by spending time with the people I love. He advised me to ground myself in my identity prior to entering the next 3 years so that I am not reduced to merely a student.
In the guidance Dr. Elnaggar provided, it is important to understand that the path of preparation is a matter of perspective. While he left much room for interpretation as to what I should actually be doing, his advice was directed towards how I should view what I am doing, which should flow out of why I am doing it. I have reflected on this wisdom, and I believe that it is a good lens to know how to properly rest before continuing the journey.
Dr. Elnaggar first established that the journey is not over because all of our preparations only make sense in light of the road that continues ahead of us. Only from this premise does he then provide insight for how to rest before resuming our mission. During our tarry, the best practice is to take comfort in the present moment, remain close with our loved ones, and to work! Although it seems paradoxical to work during a time of rest, pure relaxation with no drive is ultimately unsatisfying.
After striving to excel through college and succeeding with proof of completion, summer vacation seems like a well-deserved reward and an opportunity to finally break free from the relentless work that has plagued our lives for nearly half a decade. However, this attitude proves to be flawed if put into practice for more than a week. Days without work actually seem to last so much longer and become afflicted with boredom. The truth is that human beings love to work, and we actually find rest in it.
While I am not filling my summer reviewing previous lectures and reading textbooks in a panicked effort to retain all the information that I learned these past 4 years, I am paging through my notes from the classes that I enjoyed and reading books for leisure.
Although the absence of deadlines and due dates diminishes the tension, I still establish goals to accomplish each week and daily tasks to help me meet my objectives. I am not doing these things merely to gain an edge for when my graduate program begins, but rather these pursuits are how I truly find rest.
So, the common lesson we can learn from the physical therapist and the “mad genius” is that our actions must always flow out from a higher purpose even when we have the luxury to merely self indulge or relax. So, rather than “running rampant through the streets,” or worse, lounging around on the couch watching hours of television, perhaps it is better to take this time to truly rest.