I am overwhelmed with essays to grade, and to make matters worse, students need their essays back quickly since the quarter is ending. The thing is, I haven’t even been procrastinating. I just badly planned out my syllabus and had all four of my classes turn in essays within two days.
And when staring at a stack of essays, honestly reaching over 3 feet in height, I feel so behind that I don’t even know where to begin. Then the stress starts. Then the anxiety sets in.
So today, while staring at this looming pile, I grabbed the book, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. I use a few of her essays in my composition classes, and I pulled out my favorite essay, “Short Assignments.” While I’m not writing a paper, I am looking at a huge undertaking of grading. And so I read her wise words as she retold the story of her little brother as a child coming home from school in a panic because he had a report due the next day on birds. When Lamott’s brother told their father that he had procrastinated for so long and cried in earnest at his feelings of helplessness with having to write the entire report in one night, his father gave him the encouragement that he could tackle the assignment and do it “bird by bird.”
This then became the title of Lamott’s book, and while the book’s goal is how to be a good writer, it also teaches important life lessons. Life cannot be tackled all at once, and either can any change in lifestyle or habit. It’s taken me a year to feel better about who I am, and I know I’m still not nearly finished on improving my self-esteem. But little steps, right?
So I looked at my stack of essays and grabbed a handful to bring home. Tonight, I accomplished reading and grading what I set out to do. I didn’t feel overwhelmed and was even more happy with my decision to leave the big pile of essays in my office–I don’t even want to think about such a large stack. But a small stack? That I can handle. I’m thankful for Anne Lamott’s little bit of knowledge and insight today. It made for a much smoother and less stressful day.
Bird by bird, baby.