Back at work this week after a much-needed break, during which I had time to re-think a few priorities. It’s finally starting to occur to me that I’ve got too many commitments (what with work and study and union activism and bookcrossing and ESOL-HT…) and I’m not really coping with them all as well as I’d like. Of course, MrPloppy has been telling me that I’ve over-committed myself for months, but this is something I had to work out on my own to really believe it 🙂
The trouble is, I don’t really want to give up on any of them – work is non-negotiable if we want to do boring stuff like eat and have a roof over our heads; study keeps me sane by allowing me to actually use my brain for something, and may one day lead to more enjoyable work; being involved in the union is important to me for all sorts of reasons, not least because I strongly believe that if you want something to happen you should be prepared to help make it happen; bookcrossing is one of the most fun things I do, and organising meetups and conventions comes under the same category as being involved in the union – if you want something to happen then you’ve got to do the work; and the ESOL tutoring, apart from being interesting in itself (or at least, it would be if I could just get hold of my student to arrange some lessons!) has the potential to be really useful to me in my future studies.
Anyway, last night I was having yet another fruitless conversation with MrPloppy where he was saying for the hundredth time “You really should cut something out”, and I was saying “But I can’t because…”, it suddenly dawned on me what the real problem is. It’s not so much that I’m doing too much, but that I’ve got my priorities all messed up. In particular, study, which used to be in the “fun and relaxing” part of life, has somehow got turned around to be in the “boring but obligatory” part.
I started this degree because being in a job that’s not exactly intellectually challenging I wanted something that would engage my brain a bit, and provide me with something interesting to think about. The whole point of it was to just do papers that interested me, without worrying too much about what they’d be useful for. But I realised last night that somewhere in the last few years my focus has changed, and I’ve started thinking a lot more seriously about what had previously just been a pleasant pipe dream, of going on to do postgraduate study and maybe even becoming an academic one day. And that shift in focus has meant that instead of enjoying studying as a pleasant diversion, it’s become something I have to do so I can get good marks so I don’t spoil my chances of getting a decent scholarship one day.
That’s a pretty major change in thinking, but I really hadn’t realised I was doing it until last night. And realising it clears up so many things for me about why I’ve been feeling stressed about study this year, and why I’ve been so annoyed at myself for “only” getting an A- in the last test.
And realising it also means I can do something about it. So I’ve decided I’m going to consciously re-prioritise a few things in my life, and try and shift the balance again so I’ve got as many “fun and relaxing” things as “boring but obligatory”. Number one thing is that I’m going to start treating study as a fun thing again. I’m going to try and just enjoy learning for the sake of learning, and not let myself stress out about marks. Second, I’m going to be realistic about the amount of work I put into the union, and get better at saying no when I get asked to do things. I’m already doing my share, so I shouldn’t feel like I have to keep doing even more. I’m not going to cut back on the amount of work I do for bookcrossing, because I actually enjoy most of the organising work I do, but if we do win the bid for 2009 I’m going to make sure I’m not doing all the work for it – so be warned, those of you that have volunteered to help out, I’ll be using you! 🙂 And if we do win the bid for 2009 I’m going to think seriously about not doing any papers that semester – it’ll mean adding another 6 months onto my degree, but that’s better than risking total burnout by trying to study and organise a major convention at the same time (and anyway, what’s another 6 months when by that time I’ll have been studying for this degree for 8 years already…)
So, that’s the plan. Not so much cutting back as easing off on some of the pressure.
Of course, whether it actually works is another matter… 🙂