Balancing work life with personal life certainly felt a whole lot more doable when my personal life was lacking extreme activity. I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to lately because my personal life suddenly became a little out of control. I haven’t had enough time to really write, so by the time I finally get a moment to jot my thoughts down, shortening them into bite-size posts has been so difficult that I am currently staring at two drafts sadly begging for closure on my desktop.
The craziness didn’t just happen all at once, but slowly built up while I wasn’t paying attention. It was when I was recently sitting right in the middle of a massive, and I mean massive, pile of materials—a collection of current and that which has been passed down from a very, very long time ago—that I realized it had happened: I had officially lost control.
I had previously thought this career choice somehow trained me to protect myself from that suffocating, overwhelming feeling that I was Never-Gonna-Get-Anything-Finished-How-in-the-World-Will-I-Get-This-Mess-Organized panic that has been causing me to recently forget everything up until just five seconds prior to each conscious moment. I was wrong, and I still can’t find my keys.
The craziness all started with testing. While this year went relatively smoothly, I did still have my moments of banging my head against the wall wondering, “Who writes this stuff?!?” (hence the topic of Draft #1 sitting on my desktop!). Then came open house, end-of-year school play, benchmark testing, report cards, and getting ready for summer school and next year.
Oh, and did I mention I’m getting married in a month?
Yes, I’m getting married in a month. I never mentioned it before because having the opportunity to write this blog somehow made me feel so much more “responsible” about my work that I wanted to keep my personal life and work life separate in any way possible. I thought it was good practice to keep them separated. I also thought I could get away with it. “Just make the decision to not think about work when you get home,” people would tell me. “Just remember, it’s just a job,” they would say.
WERE THEY OUT OF THEIR MINDS?!?
::Taking a deep breath:: Ladies and gentlemen…I am here to personally testify against the myth that balancing work life and family life is not achieved by mere, self-inflicted amnesia every 3:30 p.m. M-F.
No. It takes much more work and actual thought to ensure that you will remain sane as your two worlds constantly tango for brain space. You will never be able to forget that you have a spouse or children when you walk into work, so assuming that forgetting your students, along with their daily challenges and triumphs, will be possible as you walk through your front door is equally impossible, even if you did get all your planning ready for the next day.
The greatest realization I have come to, is that while I’ve a refrained from “bringing my work home,” I also need to be careful about bringing my home to work.
“Home” never really came to work with me before, but now I have planning I have to do that distracts me from my thoughts on our lessons. Responsibilities I have to take care of on my breaks, and stress that I have to keep reminding myself is just a product of too much going on, and not a product of my day.
I know if my students were going through crazy emotions, I would slow everything down for them and schedule time to decompress. If our day gets messed up or our schedule goes out the window, I try to take 5 minutes to regroup. I am essentially attempting these strategies on myself.
I am now “re-scheduling” my daily activities to include my own chance to decompress and prioritize, a practice I think is important to keep up—even when things seem like they’re going perfectly—so that quiet build-up of stress doesn’t happen again.
I’m not saying I have it all figured out, but I am saying that I now realize what a conscious effort is required to maintain a real balance in my life. A conscious effort that, in and of itself, takes time to plan and accommodate. If I had been more aware of this earlier on, maybe I wouldn’t have found myself stuck in the middle of a pile of books and papers having my Quarter-Life Crisis!