Busy is Hard to Unlearn: Having It All

An article in the Globe and Mail that discussed how students today don’t really take a Summer break gave me pause. Once I was in high school I found a love for running and spent my Summers training for Cross Country and Track Seasons, but I also took the occasional Summer School class up at Mt. SAC. I was also enrolled in some Honors and Advanced Placement courses, so by the time I graduated I had more than the first term of college courses completed. While in university I also took Summer School and ultimately graduated with my BA in Women’s Studies and Minor in Political Science in 3.5 years. Yes, you read that right.

I was a first generation college student and the eldest of 5 kids. College wasn’t really about having the time of my life and finding myself (well, I did a little of this), but was about being  busy and serious to get it done. I had my family to think of and how they would help all five of their kids go to college or university. Three of us have degrees and the two others took some coursework, but never completed to earn the four year degree. Two of us have multiple advanced degrees.

The crux of this post, though, is the article about teenagers not having Summers today. I can recall being in middle school and getting bored after one month and I was ready to return to my school schedule. I was a good, focused student. Today, though, I am a workaholic and not saying this out of pride, but just sheer honesty. I work hard and I love my job, but I have to remind myself that I am not my job. I say this, as I want to be a good example to my own teen and her little sister. I want them to have a Summer and decompress from the busy school term that is filled with classes, competitive swimming, piano lessons, and more.

What does it mean to be so busy? What does it mean to have it all? Yes, I’ve linked to the now infamous NYT and Atlantic articles. What some of this means is that it’s getting harder to relax. I’ve blogged previously about the electronic umbilicus between me and my gadgets. I’ve also blogged about Breaking Up with Foursquare. I’m mindful of my work balance issues and trying hard for better balance. But, I also know that my Type A personality is at work, and I work in a field where my job is not the traditional 9-5 gig. I always have a project to work on, a chapter to revise, or journal article to write. And, I need to say “no” more.

It’s no wonder that during my first week of vacation I was at the office three days for meetings. Meetings planned months in advance with four or more people and our busy schedules meant that we could only find time in July–my month off. The second week of my vacation I was also at work three times. Each time I came into work the wonderful, Graduate Secretary smiled and me and said, “Now, I thought you were on vacation?” I love her to death for her humor and support!

This third week, on Monday I met with some mentees and I’m finally ready to get to my own projects and writing! But, as any of us working in higher education knows, there is still work to be done on courses and other work related stuff during the month off. This post is the first in a series thinking about what it means to be busy or attempt to have it all. I think I just about have it all, but it means that I’m busy. Cue the big sigh.

5 thoughts on “Busy is Hard to Unlearn: Having It All

  1. Do you really have it all if you don’t have personal time to decompress? I remember one of the huge points of the Atlantic article was that she had literally no time to herself at all, and that was part of the problem.

  2. Do you really have it all if you don’t have personal time to decompress? I remember one of the huge points of the Atlantic article was that she had literally no time to herself at all, and that was part of the problem.

    • Right, she didn’t. I do and guard that time, but know that when I get too busy the first thing to go is usually me time. I have to guard this time and not feel guilty.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. hmmmmm. think think think. hmmmmmm again. This sister worker-bee (nicer term than workaholic) also knows all of what you say. But with a couple of decades on you, I have also learned that it is worth it to get at least (in your case re time ‘off’) at least two fully free weeks in the summer time period without gearing up or down from a short or long meeting/interview/thinking process that is work-related. The s p a c e thus reacted is good for the synapses, soul, and mind. (honest insight—- Hanging in there with work, for me, has also been about loving being wanted/needed/respected for the work I do. yikes. Question: can I realize that all this will remain even whenI take some true time off?)

    • What you said makes sense, but really doesn’t work for those of us in higher education. For instance, I’m still getting emails from students who had detailed issues to take care of and we’ve just heard back from advising. It’s not fair to the student to send them to someone else to resolve the problem, when I was the original point of contact. So, I respond as needed to the handful that trickle in to my email.

      Then, the letters of reference for scholarships also come in and have deadlines during my vacation. I’m doing this for the strong students, who I am mentoring or trying to support. I still have two classes to prep for in Sept and this is generally done during vacation.

      I don’t have time to write during the regular term, and vacation time is the only time to write. But, all of this stated, it’s nice to work in hour increments or half day increments and do more with my lovies, read, and just not feel as rushed. The writing time is actually quite delicious. I love the research and writing time–it doesn’t feel like work per se!

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