It’s just another day in paradise
As you stumble to your bed
You’d give anything to silence
Those voices ringing in your head
You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill
You thought you would be satisfied
But you never will-
Learn to be still
During the year, I’m pretty busy. I am very lucky to have a job, and I appreciate it greatly. But I also know that keeping on top of lectures and grading for my classes takes a fair amount of work. I also have other responsibilities, plus a whole list of things that I always feel like I “should” do (okay, admittedly some of those are really my own doing more than anything else).
Because busy-during-the-school-year is the norm, it’s only recently (during this summer that I was supposed to have at least somewhat “off” from work), that I’ve started to realise just how consumed with work my life is. I have no idea how it got to be mid-July so quickly, but work has kept me so busy that I’ve barely had a break, and the “to do” list is still pretty long. While I don’t know that I work a huge amount compared to some people, I do know that it’s become harder for me to put work away and to sit down and just be still for a bit. Even if I’m not actively working, I’m thinking about it and – worse yet – often worrying about it pretty near constantly.
This really puts a damper on a lot of things. It’s hard to be in the moment when all I can think about is the stack of reviews that I need to work through, the paper I need to write, or the course prep that I need to do. It’s hard to enjoy a lot of things I usually quite like when I’m constantly thinking of all the things I haven’t yet done, and all of the things that I really should do in order to be better at my job / make myself more employable / pay the bills / etc.
So, with a month and a half left of summer, I’m on a mission to calm down a bit more and get better about leaving the work behind when I can. I want to slow down. Relax. Take it easy. Put my feet up. Downshift. Chill, if you will. There’s still work to be done, there’s no getting away from that. But I want to put the work in its place and not only have some more time for the things I really like to do, but really appreciate and enjoy them more. Cooking. Walking. Reading. Gardening. Biking. Music. Yoga. Writing. All of the things that work sometimes has me pushing aside.
Part of the problem is that I have a hard time saying no to paid work, since my current job doesn’t exactly pay the big bucks. Another issue is that I sometimes push off work because I know that it’s summer and I feel like I’m supposed to be having a nice bit of a post-degree break prior to a heavy teaching year. But when it comes to work, out of sight is very definitely not out of mind and it’s always hanging over my head just the same. I’m hoping that if I can set out some dedicated work time – morning, probably – I can get by the rest of the day feeling like I’ve accomplished something and without hearing the siren song of whatever I’m working on. And without that siren song, I’m also hoping that enjoying the time that I do have to myself will be all the easier.
More than that, though, I think I just need to practice being still a little more and get in the habit of taking time here and there. I’m used to working a lot of the time, and thinking about work all the time. Four years with a dissertation hanging over your head apparently does that to many people, as does the constant pressure in academia to take more paid work, do service work, and “publish or perish”, as the saying goes.
Logically, I know that work isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the defining feature of my life. There’s a lot that I love to do and want to do that doesn’t involve my work life. I’d like to enjoy it without work constantly in the background or, worse yet, detracting from the experience. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do this yet, other than trying to consign work to one dedicated part of the day and perhaps taking up meditation, but I am determined to make these remaining six weeks of summer count for something beyond just writing papers and planning courses. And from there, I’m hoping I can keep at least some of this up through the school year – even though work is busy, there’s no reason why it should continue to dominate my life.
And with that said, now I’m off to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And darn it all, I’m going to enjoy it.