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We need to redefine what it means to “do your best”

Photo credit: Bobby Jones

Like many of you, we here at the Sentry have been through a lot this year. We’ve stayed in the office until 2 a.m. dealing with broken printers, last-minute design changes, and articles that missed deadline; we’ve celebrated weddings and mourned deaths; we’ve travelled across state lines to make the Sentry better, and we’ve beaten ourselves up for weeks about the mistakes that made it to print. Because of the challenges we’ve faced both in our personal lives and as citizens of a country many of us no longer recognize, we decided to move our Best/Worst issue to the Fall semester so we can reflect on the sum of 2017. We wanted to find some humor in what has been an overwhelmingly difficult twelve months.

Most of the Sentry’s employees are new to their positions this semester. As Editor-in-Chief, I never asked our new hires to know everything right away—instead, I asked them to bring their best effort to the table, because we can help them improve everything else. I requested this effort even knowing how fluid the definition of “best” can be.

Over winter break, I’ll be submitting applications to at least 13 graduate schools with 13 hefty application fees. It’s expensive. I spent a year working three jobs while attending school full time to make sure I could afford it, because even the worst programs accept fewer than 4 percent of their applicants. In September, I had to spend most of that money diagnosing my kitten with a terminal illness, and this month, my other cat is showing symptoms of the same incurable disease. Within this time, one of my family members has entered hospice care. I can’t say my grief, financial stress, and lifelong chronic depression have helped me give my application materials all the attention they need.

I’ve had to learn how to be compassionate with myself. In a different year, maybe my writing samples would be stronger, and maybe I wouldn’t have to negotiate which groceries I could afford if I wanted to apply to a university in Seattle. But through it all, quitting has never been an option. I’ve had to accept I’m not operating at my best, but I am doing the best I can right now. Maybe my right now best isn’t going to get me into grad school this year, but my determination to try anyway is going to make sure I keep reapplying until a better year comes along.

As we head into finals and look ahead to the second half of the academic year, I encourage you all to recognize your limitations. If they’re something you can eliminate, do the work to get them out of your way. But if they’re completely outside of your control, allow yourself to not see those limitations as failures. Do the best you can regardless. It might just be enough.

Taylor Kirby
Taylor Kirby

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