Where Logic Meets Love

Sometimes You Just Gotta Suck It Up and Deal

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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Sometimes You Just Gotta Suck It Up and Deal | Faith Permeating Life

I really try to be the kind of person who practices what I preach. I don't want to be sharing a bunch of stuff about being happier and having a great marriage and finding God if I'm not doing it myself. Sometimes, though, it can be tough.

I've written before about quitting activities that aren't providing you with what you need. And I've written about taking care of yourself above all else. But sometimes that's not as easy as it sounds, and in the spirit of matching my life to my advice, I have to add one more piece of advice: Sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal.

Here's the situation: I take programming classes. One a semester since last spring. I can take them for free through the college where I work. Knowing the basics of programming is helpful, though not essential, for my job, and will allow me to look at a wider range of jobs when I'm looking for another job in the future. My first teacher sucked, but the guy I had in the summer was awesome. So I signed up for his course on Database Design, since a lot of what I do deals with databases.

The conceptual knowledge has been fantastic, and I've actually been able to solve two major problems at my job because of what I've learned in this semester's class. The problem is that the homework takes about 4-6 hours a week, which is basically the entirety of my free time on Sunday in between church choir and dinner with my parents. (Saturdays and weeknights are not an option for various reasons.) My class is on Monday nights, which means that I have this anxiety in the back of my mind that grows as the week goes on, reminding me that on Sunday I will have to sit at Mike's computer for 6 hours and program.

But I have no desire to be a database designer, so doing the homework is only helpful to the extent that it reinforces the concepts in my head. If you know me, you know it doesn't take 6 hours for a concept to get solidified in my head.

Here are the conversations I have with myself:

Just drop the class.
I can't. It's past the deadline. It would show up on my transcript regardless, as an F.

OK, but you're not getting a degree. You're just taking class to learn, and you are learning. Stay in the class, but who says you have to do the homework?
But almost no one else in the class does the homework, and my instructor is getting increasingly annoyed about it. I'm like his star student right now. If I stopped doing the homework, he'd be pissed.

So what? You're done taking classes after this semester, right? So what does it really matter if he doesn't like you anymore?
What if I do end up wanting a job that requires programming skills? He's my only reference.

OK, so you've got him as a reference, but you still don't have to ace all the homework assignments. Your grade in this class doesn't matter anyway. At this point you could stop doing the homework and probably still pull a C.
[At this point my brain shuts down because I've always gotten straight A's and am basically used to having my self-worth determined by my grades.]

I could go on with why I'm staying in this class and making myself do hours of homework every week, but the point is, I am. So now my focus has shifted from arguing with myself to just getting through the last third of the semester.

So here are the things I'm doing to power on through a less-than-ideal situation:
  • Reminding myself that it's a choice. No one is forcing me to take this class. I am choosing to stay in it because I value learning and my future career. This helps me to feel like my life is still under my control.
  • Clearing my schedule as much as possible. What makes me most anxious about waiting until Sunday is that if other to-do items build up during the week, I can't do my homework and all of those things and get to sleep at a reasonable hour. So I devote the rest of my week's free time to making sure I have nothing hanging over me on Sunday.
  • Drawing on my happiness arsenal. I make sure I eat before I start programming, and that I'm comfortable and warm. I make myself a cup of tea. If I find my mind wandering, I take a short break, get up, check my e-mail. I try to take care of myself as much as I can within the situation I have.
  • Looking to the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that this class will last a finite amount of time keeps me going. I know that by Christmas break I will be done with the class, hopefully done with the big family project I've been working on, and ready to dive into some other projects I've been sitting on. I remind myself that I'm not a bad person for not pursuing some of these other big ideas I have, because I've got this thing I have to get through first. And that's OK.
This kind of situation came up a lot more often in college. My first semester, I hated my art class so much that I decided to change my major so I could drop it. But at the end of my junior year, I had to take a required class with a terrible teacher who everyone hated, and at that point it made more sense just to suck it up and get through the class as best I could. Something tells me I'll have these "just get through it" moments when I'm a mother as well.

I'm not looking for advice specific to my class, but I do want to know: How do you handle a less-than-ideal situation that you're stuck in for some reason? What helps you get through it?


  1. Wow, I needed this today. You're right, sometimes you have to suck it up.

    I'm very visual, so I need to see things written down. I have a calendar hanging above my desk and I write down all the due dates associated with the project. Then, if sub-projects are large enough, I make little checklists so I can check off every accomplishment.

    When I was in grad school studying for the CPA, I scheduled "library study time" like it was class time - as in, I HAD TO BE in the library studying from 3-5 or whenever.

    I also have a poster framed above my desk that says "this too shall pass" - sometimes, that's a really important thing to know.

  2. @Helena
    Oh man, "this too shall pass" was like my mantra in high school. It got me through a lot.

    I completely agree about writing things down. Often I'll feel anxious because I think I have all these things to do, and once I write it down I realize it's not really that much and that the anxiety was coming from trying to hold it all in my head!

  3. Wow, this is timely. "This too shall pass" is a pretty helpful one here as well, and at the moment I have Philippians 4:13 written out above my palm cross on my wall above my desk. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

    Just yesterday I was telling myself how much I need to just suck it up and get on with it. The workload is relentless, I'm ill and I'm exhausted. And I could quite happily have just cried in bed all day yesterday. But I had to suck it up and get on with it. I don't want to sit around feeling sorry for myself. I want to get on with things. I actually texted my best friend yesterday asking her to text me now & then over the next couple of weeks telling me to 'stop feeling sorry for myself and just get on with things'.

    So..yeah. That's what I'm doing. And praying. Oh and listening to a motivational playlist.

  4. I think that time-frames are essential. "This too shall pass" is good, but it is even better when you know how quickly it will pass! I have found that with situations where there isn't a clear end that I need to find a way to get out ASAP. I still stink at doing that, but I have yet to regret it. I tell my parents that it is their fault for teaching me perseverance etc. \

    Sometimes you just need to give up and thank God for the few moments that you are given on this earth to do something better than whatever it is that is making you miserable!

  5. @Just me
    Yeah, I know that feeling when you're so overwhlemed you just want to shut down. But you quickly learn that it doesn't really make anything better. I've found that the only thing that eases my anxiety is actually doing the work--which is why it's so frustrating to me that Sunday is my only option for doing my programming homework, because I spend all week not making any progress. But it's also why I don't do what a lot of my classmates have tried, which is putting the work off until the next week so by now they've got weeks of work they're behind on (everything builds on itself).

    Good luck! You'll get through it.

  6. @Rae
    Absolutely! I am a big supporter of quitting things when it's draining you and there's no end in sight. The Freakonomics podcast did an episode a while back about quitting and how it can be good for you, as long as you're not just always quitting things whenever the going gets tough (i.e., having zero perseverance).

    Gratitude is super-important as well, and I find myself thanking God for everything the more I get stressed out. It's like the bigger the unpleasant things get, the more I have to draw attention to the positives in my life to keep balanced.

  7. @Jessica
    Thank you! And this is perhaps slightly off topic but advice for anyone who is trying to get through a lot of work at the moment: find a study partner. I just spent the evening sitting my room with a friend from my CU small group (different course) and we both just got on with hour work. I have worked SO productively this evening thanks to that. Having someone keep you accountable - if I'd opened up Facebook she'd have seen and pulled me up on it - helps SO much if you're trying not to get distracted.

    And now I'm in a really good mood and actually feel like I've made a lot of progress today. Woohoo!

  8. @Just me
    Good advice! And glad to hear you're in a good mood! :)


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