Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Life Lesson from a PhD #1

If there is one piece of advice I love/feel is the most important to give newbie or struggling students who are looking for a special bit of help in their study or life it is this: never, ever, ever do your homework on a Sunday. And you will be blessed!

Sound too easy to be true? Trust me, it's not!

I have learned this lesson so often. As a child, I remember attending one specific sacrament meeting when I learned about Sabbath day observance. The person speaking talked about JOY as an acronym for how our lives should be ordered: Jesus, Others, Yourself. She gave an example of her son doing his homework on Sunday. She asked him, "son, who are you serving by doing your homework today? Is it the Saviour? Is it others? Or is it just yourself?" I was only young (probably middle school), but for some reason, the lesson hit me hard. I don't know that I had ever done homework on a Sunday up to then, but from then on I made it a point never to do so. It wasn't too difficult when I was in high school, but that resolve could have been tested more robustly at University. When life was packed to the brim with assignments, deadlines, and fatigue, I was sometimes tempted to just squeeze some reading or a quick writing assignment in on Sabbath afternoons. Luckily, I had gained a special piece of knowledge my first semester that helped me stick to my resolve: one day at church early on in the year we sang Hymn #147: "Sweet is the Work." Verse two was particularly instructive to me: 

For me, that line came as a lightning bolt from heaven to my heart. It was an answer and a resolve: for peace in my life, to maintain balance and sacredness and show the Lord my trust in and devotion to Him, I could give up even worrying, thinking, or being concerned about the rest of my life on Sundays. I could just put it all on the shelf on Saturday eve, and when I came back to it Mondays, it would all be okay. That is the inspiration I felt. 

And you know what? By following that, things truly were okay. There ended up being many late Saturday nights and early Monday mornings at BYU, but I know that I made it through my bachelors degree in large part simply because I put the right things first and was blessed for it.

It is a similar story for my PhD. Work weeks here can be rough. At different times, I have regularly worked 70+ hour weeks, for weeks and even months on end. This is (or has become) normal for me and many of my colleagues, yet I feel like I have a secret superpower/source of energy and refreshment that they don't. It's called 'keeping the Sabbath day holy.'

Taking one full day off each week (and guarding it strictly from work, school, or research related problems) gives me many wonderful blessings:
  • I get a reprieve from life every single week
  • I get to rejuvenate and recharge and start over for the week
  • I get to think about the things that generally have to get put on a back burner the other days of the week, and a chance to be myself without the challenges of regular day-to-day life. 
Additionally, giving that day fully to the Lord (in the sense that I go to church, don't generally shop, travel, or spend money on it, focus more on serving others or doing things with longer lasting potential, and try to keep it free from all other worries or cares of life) has further rewards:
  • I get outside of myself and remember my place in this world, in my family, and among my friends--some things are actually more important than that which we tend to spend our most time on
  • I receive peace, direction, help, guidance, and answers as I turn to God and remember my place in His plan
  • I get to partake of the Sacrament, which renews, refreshes, and, I believe, cleanses me for another week. 
These things may sound somewhat small, but I can tell you, they  make a huge difference. On Monday mornings, when I come in to the office and greet my colleagues, we chat about the weekend. How I wish they believed in my secret when I find out that, while I almost always feel chipper and happy and ready for another week ahead, they often feel groggy and overwhelmed and discouraged as a result of having spent the whole weekend at the office, never-endingly working on a project which they are fully and utterly sick of. Additionally, I wish I could share with them some of the freedom and joy and strength I feel because I know and have learned how to ask and allow God to help me with my burdens rather than trying to manage them all on my own. Sadly, I guess because of the anti-faith and -religion world we live in, when I do share this secret with others, it is often met by resistance to it; many of my friends still suffer with their burdens alone, rather than trying this out.

I'm not trying to suggest that keeping the Sabbath day solves all of life's problems. It doesn't fully, by itself. There are still some tough weeks, and sometimes, depending on callings or events, Sundays actually aren't all that restful at all, unfortunately. I'm also not trying to set myself up as an example, or to suggest that I am especially good at keeping this commandment. Rather, I just want to share my experience. I am grateful for the instruction from the Lord to keep the Sabbath day holy.* I have definitely seen the wisdom and blessings in this one. My burdens have been made lighter, my work has been made better, and my efforts have been helped along by unseen aides because I've tried to keep this day special. Truly, the Sabbath is a delight to us. Given to bless and refresh and help and happy us, and not to make life harder. I have seen it in my own life, and if greater peace, ability, balance, and happiness are something you are looking for, I invite you to test this one out. But don't just take a day as a break--give it to the Lord. I promise He will give you back so much more in return.

Love love,

*Sidenote: I actually feel like all of the commandments that the Lord gives us are, in reality, special insider tips about how to get along easier and be more happy in life.

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