by Gina McSheffrey Emmons, PhD
Currently in our country, there is so much upset and upheaval that it can become difficult to focus on the positives during this time. We must do our part to contribute to the messages of hope and change right now so that we can look forward to better days ahead.
This time of year is usually marked by celebrations: end-of-school year parties, award ceremonies, graduations, and the start of summer gatherings. When schools closed in March due to COVID-19, no one anticipated that we would end the year in this way. Even though the end of this school year looks different, it is important that we use this time to reflect on and celebrate the successes we have achieved this year, both big and small.
A big success to acknowledge for parents, students, and school staff is finishing coursework for the year in preparation for moving on to the next grade level. Everyone experienced their time at home in a different way, with different challenges. Despite everything that was going on, we all had to forge ahead and meet the demands head on in order to finish out the year. It may not have been easy, but it is a journey we are learning from each day and it will inform how we approach education and handle challenging situations in the future. This time has opened the door to many creative ideas including how we can better use technology to our advantage, which has ultimately become a necessity for our futures. Getting to the end of this school year is a big success; however, there are small successes embedded in this big success. These are small steps that we had to take to get us to this point. We must take the time to celebrate these small successes: the time it took to learn how to use technology to teach our students, the many hours of homeschooling we provided to our children, the long days of balancing our jobs and family life, and getting up each day to face the same repetitive routine all over again. These small feats are all worth celebrating!
With graduations this month, another big success, we are reminded of how important certain ceremonial rituals are such as walking across the stage and receiving that diploma in front of our families, friends, teachers, and administrators. Even though commencement ceremonies this year will be different, graduates of 2020 must be acknowledged and celebrated for this great accomplishment. This important event in a student’s life marks the culmination of small successes, years of hard work and dedication. Moreover, these students had to keep up with their studies and responsibilities during a challenging and unprecedented time, which has made these graduates so strong and resilient in the face of such adversity. They have faced major disappointments and losses on a level that no one in their position has really ever experienced. Knowing how they were able to get through this time with their heads held high will give them the strength to conquer any challenge that comes their way. These graduates will take with them the great lessons they have learned from this time as they pave their paths into the future.
As we slowly begin to emerge from quarantine, looking back over the past few months allows us to evaluate how we have responded to this monumental change in our lives. It can make us view things differently and perhaps change the way we measure and define success now. Maybe we start to measure success by all the small things accomplished in a day. The little things we do each day to keep life moving and to keep everyone safe become our big success. These little, more mundane things in life become a bigger deal and we actually have more time to notice and appreciate them.
Small successes are what help us to survive during this unique time in our lives. It takes a lot to manage your whole life from home each day with no real break from it all, but it has become our new normal. Here are a few small successes or lessons that you may have experienced, accomplished, or learned during this time. Let’s celebrate them!
- Getting out of bed and showing up for yourself and your family
- Keeping a positive attitude despite being surrounded by negativity
- Reaching out to others who need more help than we do
- Practicing self-care and making time for you
- Taking breaks when needed even if it is a nap or watching a favorite show
- Going for walks, maybe even noticing things in nature that we never took the time to notice before
- Being present in the moment, appreciating the here and now such as a conversation with a friend or playtime with your kids
- Spending more time with your family when previous day-to-day obligations usually kept you apart most of the time
- Realizing things about you and how you want to live your life moving forward
- Feeling inspired to write, cook, exercise, or change some aspect of your life for the better
- Practicing gratitude and learning to appreciate the good in life
- Allowing to forgive yourself. Even when we have days where we do not feel our best or feel as productive, it is okay because what we do to rest or keep moving forward is enough
- Learning to not be hard on yourself, to be less judgmental of yourself and others, and to be more accepting of your circumstances
- Teaching your children valuable lessons in human resiliency and compassion by being strong for them
- Viewing your daily challenges as little lessons that you will take with you as you move ahead toward a better and brighter future
This pandemic has not only changed how we lived over the past few months, but it has also changed how we define success and what we choose to celebrate. This time of year is a time of celebration where we get the chance to celebrate all of the small and big successes in our lives, as they are all worth acknowledging and celebrating. While the future is always uncertain, we do know for certain that we have what it takes to get through anything that comes our way. That is a life lesson worth celebrating especially for graduates this year as they close one chapter in their lives and start on a new one. Hats off to you for getting to this point and to the graduate in your life! Congratulations to the class of 2020!