Wednesday, June 27, 2012


My friend Crystal over at Serving Joyfully asked this morning if anyone had seen her motivation.  I laughed when I read her post this morning.  I'd had a pitched battle with myself over whether or not I was going to go for a run, and had just come back when I'd read it, and I laughed because oh, how I recognized the feeling.  This week is the first time I've been for a run in several weeks, and the picture she posted with the quote "When you feel like quitting, think about why you started!" was too apropos.

But when I was in the shower, I really did start thinking about it.  Crystal's post was primarily about her weight loss goals, and I understand.  I will admit to the internet at large: I am at the heaviest I've ever been right now.  It's not something I'm proud of, but it is something I want to fix.  To that end, I've been working on being more active, and I've been working on trying to overcome my picky eating.

But what are my motivations?
  • I want to be healthy when my husband and I decide we want to have children.  This way, we can give our children the best possible start in life.
  • I want to be healthy for my children, to set an example of an active life that they can follow the rest of their lives.
  • I want to be healthy for my husband, as a journey towards a healthier life we take together, and so he has an active, healthy wife for years to come.
  • I want to be healthy for myself.  The more active I am, not only the more physically healthy I become, but the more mentally healthy. 
What do I mean by healthy?  It's not simply a matter of dress size or weight.  I will never fit into a size 0.  But a 10 or a 12 is a reasonable goal.  But I want to be able to have the energy I need to do everything I want to do in a day without needing a nap.  I want to be able to look in the mirror and be satisfied with who I see.  And I want to truly, honestly believe my husband when he tells me that I am beautiful.  (I am beautiful to him, no matter what.  I know this.  But I don't know that I'll intrinsically believe it until I feel that way to myself.)

But being healthy isn't the only thing I need motivation for.  I'm sitting here on the couch at my mom and dad's, glaring at the books on Foucault sitting next to me.  While I've been making progress this week (if you can call coming up with more questions than answers progress), I did decide yesterday that a valid life choice would be to watch the three Harry Potter movies I hadn't seen instead of reading.  In some ways, I can't decide which goal is more intimidating--losing weight or finishing a dissertation.

Admittedly, there have been days during my Ph.D. program when I have looked at the stack of books and paper and asked myself why I'm doing this.  What were my motivations?  I always joke that I wanted to read for a living.

Academia is stuck up.  Get a job at a community or technical college instead of a four-year university, or work as contingent faculty too long, and universities wonder why you couldn't get a "good" job before then (bad economies, elimination of tenure, and refusal of baby boomers to retire not withstanding).  So why am I doing this?

Then there are moments you remember.  A moment when a very brave young man stands up in front of his class, explains to them what it's like to be transgender, and how they can help stop the bullying of LGBT students in public schools.  A moment when two girls come to that young man with Bible verses, not to bash him, but to show him that real Christians should behave with love and acceptance, not judgment.  A moment when another young man starts coming to class, starts making an effort, starts pushing and experimenting and even liking writing.

It strikes me that I didn't get into academia to do research.  I got in it to teach.  And now the idea of a community or technical college isn't far from my mind. 


None of this answers Crystal's question about what we do when we need motivation.  Well, Crystal, here is my answer for you.  When I need motivation, I start thinking about inspiration.  Who inspires me to be better than who I am?  And how can I inspire them to be better as well?

My husband.
My father.
My brothers.
My in-laws.
Dr. K and Dr. P.
My students (that brave young man in particular).
My colleagues.

And last, but certainly not least, you, Crystal, are a source of inspiration to me.  So maybe we're going about this the wrong way.  Maybe we need to stop looking for motivation and start looking for inspiration.

1 comment:

  1. Emily, I completely agree with so much of this...I, too, have many reasons for weightloss...and most of them are way bigger than the number on the scale or the size on my clothes. I wasn't even thinking about motivation in terms of reasons for doing something, but that's important to. But, I think you're definitely on to something with the inspiration. For me, motivation (or whatever it is that actually gets me off the couch or stops me from overeating)...doesn't come without inspiration.