Gauging Our Own Progress

Natalia Schumann // Tales From the Trenches


December 16  


When I was sixteen and learning how to drive, I remember merging onto Interstate 25 for the first time and creeping up through the onramp, nervous to hit the gas any harder for fear of the traffic already cruising past at 60 mph. I can still remember the pit in my stomach, nerves on edge throughout my body, doubting my own abilities.

Today, I’m driving on auto-pilot. I can make quick decisions, switch lanes with ease, turn up the music, turn down the air conditioning, and keep a calm voice with my kids in the back, all while following the GPS.

And it got me thinking about my learning how to be a mom. Ten years ago as a new mom, I had my newborn on my lap. She was moving and cooing at four or five weeks old, and I couldn’t concentrate on the conversation I was having with my friend. With all the noise and extra movement on my lap, I couldn’t think in a straight line to finish my train of thought. 

Today, I can barely hear when the kids call “Mom” because I’ve gotten so good at blocking out all the extra noise. My friend, pregnant with her first, came over to help me over fall break. We were working together in the kitchen, and my kids were DJ-ing out tunes from the other room. At one point, my friend mentioned that she couldn’t listen to this song any longer. It occurred to me that—unconsciously—my daughter, that same newborn now nine years old, had repeated this song ten times! Although this time the noise hadn’t ruined my concentration. 

As we come to the last month of 2021, sometimes it’s hard to see the progress we’ve made in one month or even one year, but looking over the last five or ten years, I’ve grown in some pretty remarkable ways. And I don’t mean just in my ability to block out noise, concentrate, or drive. But these for me are little examples that incremental change doesn’t always look so big when it’s reviewed over a month or even over a year. It’s only when a substantial amount of time has passed that we begin to gain perspective on our growth.

An artist once sang, “I’m a million miles ahead of where I’m from, but there’s still another million miles to come.” This is how I feel in my daily life as I try to change and grow in virtue and self-compassion. I’ve come so far, and there’s still so far to go, but “I’m still not done; I’m only halfway there.” So, here’s to another year of growth and another hundred miles or so down the road! 

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