Edit Desk: Sprint to the finish line

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I pondered for a while what I would write about for my second edit desk. With so much going on in the world – and our local community – I knew it would be difficult to ignore such topics as the presidential election, the ongoing fight for social justice or COVID-19.

But I knew it would be equally difficult to decide on just one of these topics to write about and omit the others, as they are all pressing issues in our society.

Fortunately, all of these problems have been, and continue to be reported by the Brown and White staff from top to bottom. Our job is nowhere near finished at this point, but the time and effort invested in providing the Lehigh community with accurate, timely information has been of paramount importance during these most difficult times.

The intersection of purposeful work and trying times struck a chord with me after I finished reading Angela Duckworth’s Grit this week. 

Duckworth is a psychologist and professor who grew up in New Jersey. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in neurobiology at Harvard College, her master’s degree in neuroscience from Oxford University and eventually obtained her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. 

While her book focuses largely on ideas like goal setting, identifying and sticking to a passion, and what it means to be a “paragon of grit,” Duckworth devotes a substantial part of her New York Times Bestseller to discussing the importance of purpose and perseverance.

Upon reflection of the book, I arrived at two conclusions – one centered on the idea of purpose and the other about perseverance. 

I speak for myself here – though I would not be surprised if some (or most) of my fellow Brown and White staff members shared this sentiment. 

I have never felt a greater purpose in my work than I do at this time. 

I say this because I have had several friends approach me, commending the publication’s hard work through these times, and some have gone so far as to say that they’ve gravitated to the Brown and White as their primary source for news about Lehigh and the greater Bethlehem area.

Some staff members have shared similar stories at meetings, and we revel in the excitement of truly embodying the paper’s motto: All the Lehigh University News First. 

Like I mentioned above, our job is nowhere near complete, and this is not to serve as a self-congratulating piece. No – this is merely one observation I made after digesting Duckworth’s findings on the correlation between enjoying/taking pride in your work and achieving success/being happy.

The second observation pertains to perseverance as it relates to the challenges imposed by COVID-19.

As we are approaching the home stretch of a second consecutive semester consumed by Zoom meetings and remote learning, one thing is abundantly clear: this pandemic is convenient for absolutely no one. 

Students and teachers alike would jump at the opportunity to get back into the classroom tomorrow, the same way athletes are itching to get back on the field or court. Our scientists on campus are eager to get back to their research, just as our theatre department hopes to return to the stage as soon as it is safe to do so.

I want to take this chance to urge everyone to be patient with each other. While my professors have been wonderfully understanding of the current circumstances, I have friends who have had different experiences with theirs. And for students growing increasingly frustrated with the mundane life of college online, just know that our professors are probably mourning the loss of our academic buildings and our time together more than we are. It’s all about perspective.

I would be remiss if I did not include the quote that resonated with me the most and ultimately led me writing this piece in the first place. At one point in her discussion of perseverance, Duckworth says:

“From the very beginning to the very end, it is inestimably important to learn to keep going even when things are difficult, even when we have doubts. At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.”

Our lives are full of doubt at this moment. We are going on eight months of life in the pandemic. People are fatigued, bored, and hopeless. But it’s essential to keep that perspective – to remember that everyone is combatting problems of their own – whether we know it or not. For some, these trying times have compromised mental wellbeing. Remember the importance of reaching out to those around you, as sharing commonalities can alleviate some of the stress that’s being created from this dark tunnel with seemingly no end.

In the 2020 fall semester’s waning weeks, let’s do our best to embody the grit that Duckworth has devoted a career to studying. She identified this characteristic in some of the world’s most powerful minds, but it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it and translate it into our own lives. 

Although it may seem easy to, now is no time to roll over and stay down. As Duckworth reiterates, in that case, grit loses. We need grit to prevail – and it will – once we grind through the home stretch and close the book on a semester unlike any other.

It’s important that we uplift each other. We’re in this together and we will get through this, together.

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