A few days ago, I found out that an article I wrote for DH had been cited as a source in an FSU grad student's dissertation. I laughed as I told one of my friends about it, and he responded, "It must be gratifying to be included in someone's dissertation." I thought about that for a while, percolated on it for a couple of days, and came to the conclusion that, yes, I guess it was, in a way, gratifying. I probably wouldn't have told him about it if I wasn't somewhat thrilled--if not equally bewildered--by the notion. But in the grand scheme of things... is "gratified" really the right term to describe how I felt?
It's not like I'd set out to be cited. It's not like I gained any sort of fulfillment from it. I wasn't able to cross it off a bucket list, because it's not something I'd have thought to write down.
That got me thinking about real gratifying moments in my life, achievements realized through hard work, dedication, and tenacity. Then I thought about moments that were totally unplanned, but still "gratifying".
1. My weight loss. I lost 70 lbs after discovering that I had insulin resistance. This was no easy feat, and ultimately came down to diet and exercise. Also, I did it slowly so as to keep the weight off.
2. My kids. They aren't "completed projects", so to speak, but they are amazing and teach me a lot *cough* about patience and unconditional love. *cough* Just kidding...sort of. Gavin teaches me that hugs are infinitely more effective than words. Elayna teaches me to be sensitive to the feelings of all God's creatures. (Stuffed animals included. But spiders excluded.)
3. There are articles I've written that have inadvertently helped families adopt children or raise money for mental health care. Some pieces support causes from civil literacy to sports teams for children with disabilities. My articles have accidentally lead to funding a set of Shakespeare resource books for a junior high teacher or a couple of laptops for a debate team. While I never expected to be able to affect someone's life--as I'm only a faceless byline with a crappy laptop and a wide-eyed sense of curiosity--I would count these moments as gratifying, because somehow collecting data and information, conducting interviews, and typing it all up helps people.
4. Students and parents taking the time to say thank you. Being a teacher is unbelievably draining and without moments of gratitude, most of us wouldn't last. We wear compliments like badges on our hearts. Also, a student who applies what she learned in class is more valuable to a teacher than a crystal apple for recognition.
5. "Gratified" doesn't begin to describe how elated I get when people praise my creative writing. That is when I really wanna high five myself and say, "See, you can do this."
6. Running my first 5K, and the dozen or so since then. Running 13 races this year just because I want to.
I could go on and on--editing UEJ, publishing One-Armed Freak, learning how to snowboard, holding on to my relationship with God despite the overwhelming tempests over the decade, getting into grad school, overcoming sexual abuse--but the trend I see in these gratifying moments relates to improving the mind, health, and soul of myself or others. It has less to do with academic praise or golden statues and more to do with service. I thank God for all of these opportunities and for my life.
What are some of your most gratifying moments?