Whether it is cleaning a room, getting into an exercise routine, or starting a new school year, I’ve discovered that it gets worse before it gets better.
Somehow, I’ve managed to turn a blind eye to the state of my bedroom for the entire summer. I knew it was a mess and yet it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I saw it with the eyes of reality. As I began to move some boxes around and sort through a pile of clothes, I realized that it was getting worse. My attempts to clean were making my room more unlivable. Yet I reminded myself that it needed to get worse so it could get better. It still isn’t great, but my room is looking better, bit by bit.
The same was true a couple of years ago when I picked up running for a while. The first run was tiring as I realized how out of shape I was. Yet the next couple runs were worse as my sore muscles protested being used again so soon. Eventually, though, it did get better. In fact, I ran a 5-mile race and finally understood why runners say they need a few miles to warm up. Having never been a “real” runner, I always thought I should conserve my energy, but as I finished the race, I could feel that I was running far better than the first couple miles.
The beginning of the year begins with excitement and a fair share of nervousness. I slide from a summer of relaxation, travel, and free time into hours of standing in front of the class, attempting to elicit interest from the students. The first couple days and weeks are incredibly tiring. I get used to presenting the same lesson repeatedly and memorizing dozens of names in a few short days. Soon, however, the days enter into a rhythm and I begin to acclimate to the demands of the mental gymnastics required to keep on top of the questions, quirks, and foibles of my classes.
In each situation, there are difficulties to overcome before it can become manageable. If we pay too much attention to the situation as it worsens, we may be tempted to stop, thinking it will only get increasingly terrible. Yet, most things will improve with time. The chaos of the room will gradually be conquered by organization and simplicity. Muscles that are tired will strengthen with repeated use. School years that commence with excited fatigue will, hopefully, turn into relationships built and ideas mastered in an atmosphere of curious inquiry and respect.
If you are currently finding yourself in the “worse” part of the project, keep moving. Most likely, it is bound to get better and you are bound to get stronger.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.