Mid-day on Friday I received some of the most shocking and saddening news I’ve received in a long time. I found out that one of the professors from my PhD program, who has become very close over the past two years, died unexpectedly the day prior. I had just had class with him the weekend before and have been diligently working to complete all of my assignments for his class. It was absolutely out of the blue and I’m still in a mild state of shock.
As I’ve reflected on just what an amazing human he was and how thankful I am to have met him and been able to learn from him these last two years, I’ve really thought a lot about the way that things can change so suddenly for anyone at any time.
Life is short and it can be extremely challenging at times. However, my professor’s sudden passing is a stark reminder that there is nothing promised to us. We have to make the most of every moment and cherish every second. There are a lot of things in life that can distract us from doing that, it’s important to remember that we can only control so much in this world.
If this past year has taught us anything it should be that we can only control the controllables. There are going to be things that are out of our control, things as big as a pandemic and as small as the internet going out in the middle of binge-watching a show on Netflix. We have to take a step back and not allow these things to cause stress or be distractions in our life, or to our pursuit of a life well-lived.
Instinctively, I want to dwell on the loss of my professor. He was truly one of the best educators I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my life, both as a student and as a professional. His loss is terrible for many people and he will be fondly remembered by all who knew him. However, while I can hold his memory dear, I have no way to change what has happened. I can, however, control how I respond. I will kiss Clayton and my wife an extra time before I leave the house, I will coordinate with my cohort to honor him in a way that is appropriate, and I will continue to infuse humor into my work and my life as my professor would’ve wanted (he researched and wrote frequently about the power of humor).
There are a lot of things in our lives that we can control, we should focus on those. When we face a situation that is out of our control we shouldn’t dwell on the situation but rather on how we respond to it. We can’t control events but we can control our response to those events.
I’m trying to follow my own advice. I’m refocusing my energies on family and friends. I’ve revisited my personal and professional goals and aligned them such that I don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. I won’t dwell on the passing of my professor but rather I’ll allow the memories and lessons he provided me to be the inspiration for my future achievements.
What can you control? Focus your energy there and appreciate every moment for its greatness!