This past year has presented us with challenges we might not have imagined, disruptions we could not anticipate, and lessons to learn that we might not have chosen. It has been a year of rough spots, occasional setbacks, and searching for answers and solutions.
The year reminds me of a metaphor I heard several years ago. The metaphor employs a mountain brook as a reflection of how life can be. The brook bounces over rocks, races through rapids, tumbles over waterfalls, jostles through twists and turns and occasionally detours into side ponds and pools as it flows down the mountain. Yet, despite the often rough path, the mountain water is clean, cool, and sparkling fresh. If dammed up, held in place away from the brook and the jostling and hazards of the stream bed, the same water becomes stale, dark, and smelly. Ironically, it is the tumbling and jostling of the water’s path that keeps it fresh and pure.
For most of us, the year has felt as though it was filled with rocks, rapids, and waterfalls. Yet, as the metaphor points out, only by allowing ourselves to risk bruising by life’s rocky stretches and surprised by hidden waterfalls can we remain fresh, flexible, and growing in our personal and professional lives. When we choose to pull back and begin to avoid the risks and opportunities that life offers, we can lose our sparkle, our focus, and our commitment to continue growing and learning. Over time we can become as stagnant and stale as a dammed-up pool of water.
The past year has provided a generous serving of challenges and maybe more than our share of “opportunities.” We have endured the uncertainty of an invisible and aggressive virus and navigated through economic uncertainty and instability. We have also celebrated with students who have achieved despite the distractions and challenges they have faced. We have found ways to work together to solve complex, difficult problems, and have even begun planning for what may come next.
So, how might we think about the year ahead and how might we best find our way around the next bend and down the rapids that lie ahead? First, we can remember to “stay loose.” We will experience fewer bruises if we avoid resisting too much and landing too hard.
Second, we can find our “flow.” The brook has a rhythm that once found, can help us keep our balance and stay upright most of the time.
Third, we need stay vigilant about what may lie ahead. The sooner we can see what is coming, the better prepared we can be.
Finally, we can commit to enjoying the scenery. If we look for it, we will likely see and experience surprises, thrills, and delights beyond what we might imagine.