Something that I have been trying to remind the second year graduate social work students that I teach is to enjoy this time in graduate school, as this program with their peers is a once in a life time experience. The students typically roll their eyes, groan and sigh as I say this. Especially now as they are halfway through the semester with less than 9 weeks until graduation. They talk about how their lives have been put on hold, the sacrifices that they have made to pursue this professional degree. I challenge them to look at the journey along the way, not just the end goal, and the destination of graduation. This parallels a lot with the Grief, Loss and Bereavement in Social Work Practice Elective which I am teaching this semester, and the years which I spent working in the hospice field of social work.
We are always in a hurry to get to the next thing, obtain the next goal, the next degree, the next job, publish the next article, move into the next house, finish the next semester, etc, are we forgetting to be present in the current moment? Consider the following…
“First I was dying to finish high school and start college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working. And then I was dying to marry and have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire.
And now I am dying…
And suddenly I realize I forgot to live”.
We are all busy, we all have deadlines and due dates and bosses and families and are juggling a million things. But are we so busy that we cannot be present in the moment? I am as guilty as the next person. A skill which we teach social work students is to be present. While working with a client(s) be present, be with them be in that sacred space to help them. We teach this to students, but do we practice it ourselves? As you are reading this blog, how many other tabs do you have open, what else are you doing? When was the last time that you did one thing at a time?
This blog is cathartic for me to write in the present moment as I need to be reminded of being present and enjoying the journey myself. My time where I was 100% present was while I was running or practicing Baptiste Yoga. I recently got caught up training for a ½ marathon and I lost sight of my journey, running and practicing yoga for the cleansing and centering that it offered me. I got caught up in the destination, the training miles and the schedule of on days and off days and the pressure. I was not present. I am now in a cam walker boot, nursing a calf tear for the third time and I feel like my life is spiraling out of control because I have lost my center. It is time to readjust my journey and find another way to center myself. When I was on a healthier journey of centering and cleansing I had incorporated meditation into my life. It is time to incorporate meditation again.
Many patients who I have had the pleasure of working with as they have approached death under hospice care share that they have regrets. As they approach death they share that they wish that they had spent more time with family and friends, they wish that they had been more present. They wish that they had said the things that mattered. They wish that they hadn’t been so busy doing, rather than living. A book that the Grief, Loss and Bereavement in Social Work Practice read was The Four Things That Matter Most, by Dr. Ira Byock. I was pleased that the students took the time to slow down and read a non-text book. This books talks about telling those people in your life whom you care about, “I love you, thank you, please forgive me and I forgive you.” Many students reflected up how this book can be used not only in their professional but also personal lives.
What do you need to incorporate into your life in order to slow down and enjoy the journey? Are you living in the present, or are you focused on the destination? What might you be neglecting to reach your destination; health, family, friends, your true calling? Do those people who are important parts of your journey know that they are? If not take the time to tell them. I know that this takes time, start with 5 minutes and build on that slowly. You don’t want your life to be over before you truly lived it. I challenge you to reflect upon this and try something new, to be present with yourself and those you care about, they deserve it and so do you!
For those students graduating who are reading this, you have about 9 weeks left until graduation, breathe it in, and enjoy it! This is an experience that you will not get back, do not just wish it over! Tell someone whom you have met on this journey, “Thank you!” This will make you more mindful and centered as you move on to your new journey which lies ahead.
Sarah E. Hopkins, LMSW
Full Time Lecturer
Department of Social Work
College of Community and Public Affairs