Another group of students walked across the stage at Athabasca and received their degrees over the weekend. This year I tuned in to watch one of The Voice Magazine’s own, Barb, accept her degree. I was surprised at just how much excitement I felt, it brought back so many memories and feelings from when I took that short walk, hoping I didn’t trip. Unfortunately, much to my disappointment, right as Barb’s name was called the feed froze, and it kicked back in just in time to watch her walk off the stage.
Convocation is a big celebration. It feels big and everyone’s excitement and nerves can be felt throughout the room. For me, attending convocation made everything feel real. It was putting an exclamation point at the end of my degree. But, this wasn’t the only celebration I had while I worked towards this end goal. I celebrated good grades, sometimes on papers, sometimes on courses; I celebrated completing a requirement; getting to the halfway point; and other “small” victories between starting and finishing.
I find it is important to celebrate the small steps throughout your degree, not only the big finale, for a couple reasons. One, it can take a long time to get from start to finish and you deserve to feel that sense of achievement and reward yourself along the entire path. And two, it sets you up to continue celebrating your achievements once you are out of the school environment.
I got into the habit of celebrating milestones and I have taken this with me. As I work for a Literary Agency I find that there aren’t those “big” moments, there isn’t a “big” promotion or the flag waving and saying “you’ve made it”. Rather, there is a progression, an increase in tasks and responsibility. Sometimes these can happen so organically that they can nearly be missed as “part of the job” but then when you look back and see how all these small things have accumulated, you’ve gained a lot more ground that you may have expected. It is kind of like walking up a hill and not looking back until you reach the top.
I have found that giving myself the time to celebrate the small steps, to stop and turn around to look at the view and how far I have climbed, before I reach the top, helps me to stay focused, and relieves some of the pressure. I acknowledge each step. And because I do, I find that I have an easier time giving myself a weekend off as a reward. And the best part is, I feel no guilt doing it. I have proven myself, I have worked restlessly, and now it is time to reward myself for those efforts.
I can take this time off without guilt because I am acknowledging the progression. I mark it, with a nice dinner out, or an exploration in the backcountry. Sometimes it is as small as reading a book for pleasure on the deck instead of one for work.
Starting to train yourself to see the small achievements, and to celebrate them, starts when you are in school, or at least it did for me. Being able to see them, mark them, keeps the focus forward, while still feeling like you are making progress. If you only look at the top of the hill as you walk, it will feel like it takes forever to get there, it never seems to get any closer—you have to look at the landmarks that are closer to you, watch them go by, and that makes the trip more enjoyable and feel more productive.