The middle of the year — July 2nd — passed last week. Six months of 2012, gone forever. And looking back, I’m not sure how I feel about those first 183-ish days. A lot of great things happened. I finished my first year of grad school, to name one. Passed my subject exams, got a research assistantship, started getting myself settled in my research division. I’ve never known physics as well as I know it right now, and I’ve gained so much ability and finesse and fluency with the subject that I can hardly believe the guy writing these words is the same guy who almost didn’t pass his entrance exam almost a year ago. Many things have changed for the better.
And yet, some things have changed for the worse.
In those six months, I barely ever read non-textbook material. I almost never wrote in my journal. I posted a grand total of four essays here — not even an average of one per month. I didn’t make any effort to compose music. To some extent, I can’t believe that the guy writing these words is the same guy who wrote an essay about taking initiative in doing difficult things almost a year ago just before passing his entrance exams. How did this happen?
To some extent, I think it was simple busyness. Any change as monumental as entering graduate study (in anything! not just physics) is bound to be brutally time and energy-consuming. Most nights during the school year were spent doing homework, most weekends were spent in part grading papers, and even scheduling in activities like Bible study didn’t always guarantee I’d have time to study the Word, or choose to do it when I did have time — and the same goes for writing, composing, and anything else. I couldn’t do it all, and more often than not I chose to sacrifice my spiritual and mental disciplines in favor of a few extra points on an exam.
But eventually, the “just make it to the next problem set” mindset got hold of me. Sacrificing other things in order to not “fail out” of grad school eventually accustomed me to living without anything but the pursuit of grad school itself. I haven’t been in class for over two months — so why haven’t I been writing here? I finally cracked open a book on spiritual formation for the first time in 2012 — the first time in 2012! — the weekend before 4th of July. I offered to arrange a short piano piece for my church a few days before that, opening up Musescore for the first time in over six months. I’m finally starting to find ways to tweak my schedule so that reading my Bible isn’t a chore. These simple, almost-trivial uses of my time were nonetheless appreciably difficult for me after having let those pathways atrophy in my mind for half a year. But no more.
Starting today I’m making some Half-Year’s Resolutions, including learning better ways to nourish and rejuvenate myself as well as writing here regularly about this period of my development. I know it’s possible to do well in a busy world without sacrificing spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being. I have dozens of friends who do it every day, many of them finding ways to write and share meaningful things while they do it. It’s just a matter of brushing the dust off of those old habits and making sure they have a prominent place in the next six months of my life.
Watch this space. It’s time to get back on the wagon.