Monday, January 9, 2012

Doing More with Less

The other night, Mike and I went out to dinner.  We've been trying to make this regular date night thing work for us - with his schedule, it's a bit crazy, but we've been able to have a night out just for us at least once a month since moving here.  Considering our only date nights back East were typically required meetings that we had to attend, this is a HUGE improvement from past years. 

This date night was slightly different from the others.  We actually  had a "function" to attend:  a dinner, put on by the alumni association of Mike's medical school.  We often get asked questions about med school, and what it was like, or how we "made it," or things along those lines.  I can honestly say that we "made it" because of the school we were at - not in spite of it.  This school truly cared about its students - Mike wasn't just a number with grades:  he was a person, and with that, a member of a family.  What other med school lets their students bring their babies to class?  (Baby #1 attended his share of classes during his first year of life).  What other med school lets their student go home to be with his wife as she miscarries their child?  (yes, this did happen to us).  I obviously don't have first-hand experience at any other school but this one, but I'd heard the same horror stories as the people asking us the questions.   I was slightly terrified of the task in front of us when Mike started med school....and while some times were difficult, the college really tried to help each student (and their families) get the most out of school without losing their heads.  It truly was a wonderful experience.

When the invitation came to attend this dinner, we noticed that the actual dean of the med school would be in attendance.  Seeing as her decisions and guidance were directly responsible for our great experience - and thinking it would be fun to see her again and catch up (yes - catch up:  another plus of this med school is that those "in charge" do actually know their students and care about their lives), we decided to attend, even though the dinner was almost a  1.5 hour drive away.

I'm glad we went.  It was a fun, social evening, full of meeting other Spartans.  Med schools attract a certain personality group, and each school has it's own "flavour," for lack of a better word.  This school is no different, and it was really nice to be around people that had similar personalities as ours.  I'm also glad we went, because of a certain phrase that was used multiple times and I've been contemplating all week.  One of the doctors in attendance gave a brief little speech (more like a toast), in which he recounted his experiences at the college.   Time and time again, he mentioned how this school managed to "do more with less."  This was a university-wide phenomenon, he explained, mentioning different sporting teams who consistently reach championships, even without the recruits of more "prestigious" schools, like Duke. 

His comments made me think:  doing more with less has been a theme of ours since the move.  While we are extremely blessed in our current stage in life, things have been very, very tight.  We've found ourselves trying to find ways of doing more with less, over and over again.

I'm not complaining, believe it or not.  I'm thankful for this challenge (most days - some days, I do slip and get frustrated, I'll admit it).  Trying to do more with less has helped us to prioritize our lives and to verbalize our goals a bit more than we have in the past.  In the past, our goal was just to get "done" - med school, residency, etc - with the current stage in life.  Now, we've accomplished that, and most likely, there won't be a huge, drastic change in our life stage.  Our goals have become smaller, our priorities more immediate. 

Doing more with less has forced us to get creative with our resources.  I've always hated throwing something out (just ask my mother), but now I hold on to something for more than sentimental value.  I try to re-appropriate the item.  I've come to realize that we, as a family, discard too much.  Sure, that game board might be missing a few pieces.....but it can be used as an educational tool.  It may turn from Candyland into a sight word game for the beginning reader - all it takes is a few new playing card, and a few minutes of my time.  That's a very basic example, but the concept can be applied to all areas of our lives.

Doing more with less also means that we've been trying to adjust our perception of just what is "enough."  We really don't need as much as we think we do to have a "good" life.  We may be purchasing less and less every month, but I think we're receiving more and more.  Doing more with less means that we appreciate what we have around us:  our family and friends.  We may not be able to spend $20/person for a concert or museum admission...but we can plan a picnic with friends, or take a hike with the family.  By doing less.....we end up doing a lot more.

I'm still learning how to do more with less.  I have plenty of room for improvement.  I struggle every day with wanting to have more.  I struggle with a feeling of entitlement, almost:  We worked so hard to get here, and why can't I enjoy it?   The problem is that my view of "enjoying it" needs to change.  I can enjoy our life now that we've reached the end of med school and residency, because enjoyment is not something that money can buy - it's not a consumer product, like I once thought.  I'm working towards not only recognizing that, but embracing that.

How do you do more with less?

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