“How are you?”
“Really busy.”
“I know, right? Me, too. I’m super busy.”
“I was up until 4.”
“That’s nothing, I was up even later … ”

Sound familiar? We hear these encounters all the time. Our culture and our campus are really busy.

Are we too busy? Is being busy a choice?

I know I’m being countercultural when I pose these questions. That’s intentional. To be clear, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be involved. I’m saying that you should be involved with real intentionality, purpose and meaning.

What if, when asked how we are doing, we first paused, smiled and then said, “I’m grateful”?

Could you imagine? What if the culture of “busyness” started to shift to one of real gratitude?

The Jesuits have a phrase: “contemplative in action.” The phrase is not “actor in action”; it’s “contemplative in action.”

We are invited to contemplate with gratitude our gifts, which lead us to act, and to contemplate the Giver who gives us these gifts.

Being contemplative — that is, reflecting on our days and thinking about what we’re grateful for — is quite simple. It means noticing, pondering on and even sharing our experiences, thoughts and feelings with others. When do we find sources for joy, peace and energy during our days? Alternatively, what stunts us from living as women and men for others?

From me to you, here are a few pieces of advice that might help you answer these questions and live up to the standard of living as a woman or man for others.

We can be contemplative in a variety of ways. For centuries, thousands of men and women have recited the Examen — a short, reflective prayer rooted in gratitude. Journaling, which adds another dimension to reflection, helps me to decide over time what is life-giving and energizing and what is not.

Taking time to sit in any of our beautiful sacred spaces — even for a few minutes on the way to class — is another wonderful way to let thoughts and feelings wash over us. The fountain in Dahlgren Quad is one of my favorite spots, as is the beautiful garden by the Observatory behind Yates.

Reflecting together with others can also build authentic communities and friendships, and we can do this in our own residence halls, apartments and homes through Companions’ Dinners and the Spirit of Georgetown seminars in the spring. We can also go to Georgetown’s peaceful retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains for ESCAPE, AGAPE and other retreats: If St. Ignatius did it, why can’t we?

However we do this, as individuals or as a community, reflecting on our days is a wonderful way to be contemplative in action — shifting “busy” to “grateful.

So, what advice do I have for new and returning students? Remember that being a student first is your job right now, and it’s an incredible privilege to be here at Georgetown, where your professors and friends challenge you to be your best self. Your assignments, papers and exams are gifts, not burdens (I told you I’m countercultural).

And, we all make mistakes. One of my best moments as a student here at Georgetown was going to my professor’s office and saying, “I’m really behind with the reading, and I don’t know how to get out of this hole, but I know I need help.”

Additionally, be involved with intentionality. Reflect on what you’re doing so that you don’t miss the meaning, fun and joy in your actions on campus. But, sometimes our reflection will lead us to saying no to some of our activities. Saying no to some things actually helps us say yes more intentionally — and with more energy and joy — to others.

Trust in yourself, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone feels insecure; only some of us are secure enough to admit it.

Finally, there are so many people here who care about you — take the opportunity to ask for guidance and support like I did. Your professors, chaplains and residential advisors are great resources who embody cura personalis very well.

Above all, be grateful. Take the time to pause and reflect on your work and activities. When you do, you’ll be much more effective, productive and joyful.

Michelle Siemietkowski (COL ’92, GRD ’98) is the Director for Graduate and Undergraduate Student Formation in the Office of Mission and Ministry and a chaplain in residence.

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