Hard Work and Prayer: Be encouraged; they’re worth it.

I joke that I’m a “workaholic”. It’s a joke because I can, when pressed, take a break and have a laugh. But I secretly think that I’ve inherited a gene that does not allow me to set low standards for myself in any regard.

Sound like a perfectionist?

Here’s the way I see it: When faced with a challenge in life, we can either

  1. pretend it doesn’t exist
  2. complain our way through it
  3. give it a go
  4. give it our best shot

A story comes to mind:

When some people discover my thesis, “New Media, New Evangelization,” they assume I hold an MA degree. Actually, I wrote it as an undergraduate member of the Honors Scholars program, a group of less than 30 students selected from each incoming class who complete a four-year “academic marathon” of especially-challenging courses (in additional to their chosen concentrations) and complete a senior thesis.

A handful of the original Scholars chosen from my class didn’t make it to senior year. By that time, despite our apparent resilience, my classmates and I discovered that “smart people” are not immune to the potentially-fatal disease known as senioritis. We watched dreams of curing cancer with the senior thesis slowly slide down a slippery slope of social events and procrastination.

On top of the usual, I had my fair share of personal setbacks: My fibromyalgia symptoms were beginning to rear their ugly heads, but my doctors couldn’t give me any answers. I (miraculously) split from a long, toxic dating relationship. My spiritual life was limping along on broken knees. I remember yelling at God in my dorm room, “Why me?!? WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME??!”

My thesis required long hours of research, analysis, interviews, reviewing my research, writing, meeting with my advisor, peer-review, more writing, and then keeping up with my scholarship requirements, co-curricular activities, extracurricular activities, family, hygiene, and that sleeping and eating stuff.

As I recall, a few classmates decided that graduating as an Honors Scholar wasn’t important to them anymore. They shut the door on the Senior Thesis Monster and never thought of it again.

In my mind, that was never an option. From birth, I’ve been pre-programmed to default to #4: “Give it Your Best Shot”.

So I did.

Presenting at the 2013 Catholic New Media Conference, in the Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center's chapel
Presenting at the 2013 Catholic New Media Conference, in the Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center’s chapel

Just yesterday, my incoming intern called me. He needed sources for a paper he’s writing on the power of the Internet. Thanks to my “ora et labora hardcore-ah” during a tremendously challenging undergraduate year, I had the privilege of directing this intern to a relevant website created for a legitimately-published book by a well-known publishing company…

…because its Resources section links to my senior thesis.

While some of my college classmates have forgotten about that thesis paper, I continue to receive emails from around the world about mine. Faced with my challenging year of college, I stuck with: “Give It Your Best Shot.” Now, the fruit of my labor and prayer has been read over 16,000 times. It is used in educating, training, and forming clergy, seminarians, religious, and lay Catholics for the New Evangelization.

I’m not sure what exactly my university professors hoped Honors Scholars would learn from the senior thesis experience. I learned that hard work and prayer will bear fruit.

Don’t be discouraged.

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