Assessing the Year’s End

With 2015 coming to a close, myself and people across the world inevitably take stock of the past year and look ahead to what may come next. While many set goals for the coming year, I think it is good to take a moment and evaluate accomplishments from the past twelve months. In academia, the ‘to-do list’ receives heavy precedence, and often we forget to acknowledge and give ourselves proper credit for all the work we completed. I am especially guilty of this – brushing off accomplishments or passing milestones to focus instead, almost exclusively, on all that I did not do or achieve.

For this year, I aim to change that, and I plan to do so through an ‘I’ve done list.’ D’Lane Compton (@yourqueerprof) put forward this wonderful idea on Twitter. Dr. Compton suggested that, instead of focusing on what you need to do next, take some time to look at what you have done. Write out a list of all your accomplishments from the past year and use that as a platform to build awareness, as well as self-confidence. For grad students and recent graduates, both of these aspects are critical in what can be challenging times.

Focus on what you have done, not only on what you need to do. Matthew the Evangelist, miniature from the Grades Heures of Anne of Brittany, Bourdichon. Wikimedia Commons.

This year has been, without a doubt, one of the most challenging, both personally and professionally. Finishing, editing, and defending my dissertation was only one part of a busy year full of conference presentations, building and teaching new courses, and writing pieces for publication. It is easy to throw the dissertation and finishing graduate school into the mix as just another part of a busy year. In doing so, I forget the significance of that accomplishment. It becomes easy to focus instead on what I need to do next (first and foremost: find employment).

We become so conditioned to jump from one task to another – finish a chapter draft, grade papers, submit that article, teach a class, grade more papers – that looking ahead becomes a learned trait. There are always more books and articles to read, there are always – always – more papers to grade, and the publications list of your C.V. could always be longer… The noise that surrounds all we feel like we need to do threatens to drown out all that we’ve achieved. When that happens, it can leave you feeling rather empty and low. Instead, take a moment, shut out that noise of the never-ending to-do list, and write out what you accomplished this year. Give yourself proper credit and take pride in what you are capable of achieving. The list will likely end up longer than you expect.

I hope you all had a happy 2015. Best wishes for the new year.


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