2017 was “supposed to be” a year all about achieving balance; about carving out a happy place between success and stress, and about having the courage to do more of what is good for me, and less of what I think I should do, or what others decide I ought to do.
I was inspired by the words of Marissa Sharkey when she said, “Know yourself and let that guide you. The hardest thing as defined by the outside world is not necessarily the best for you, or even the most challenging. Be courageous and choose your own path.”
In retrospect, it’s easy to see that I was trying to find a way to establish boundaries, and reclaim the power to decide where my time & energy should be directed. Those things are essential to a healthy work-life balance, and beginning to feel burnt out, I was seeking them desperately. Unfortunately, as a teacher, I’ve been trained to give of myself constantly, and without thought.
A student needs extra help with an essay after school? Give the time.
Leadership class wants to run a 30 Hour Famine Fundraiser? Give up your sleep to supervise from 2-5 a.m.
The grad class needs a teacher advisor? Give administration a big fat “yes” when asked to take on the part-time job of event-planner.
Give. Give. Give.
Now, giving is not a negative. In fact, I like to give. I am invigorated by teaching and by demonstrating service. However, I am depleted by being forced to give when my agency to choose where my time and energy are directed is taken away.
One of the places I badly wanted to direct my time & energy this year was into learning a second language, which has been on my bucket list for ages. I decided on Spanish, and registered for an introductory class through Athabasca University. I could, I told myself, be successful at balancing a full-time job (including the demands of marking that come with teaching English 30-1), planning our school’s grad ceremonies, instructing aquafit a few nights a week, and taking on the job as administrator for my condo association, with one university course. After all, didn’t I believe that one finds time for the things they honestly believe are important? I’d just have to practice what I always preach about the important of good time management. . . but with so many other responsibilities imposed by outside forces, I had little time for the things I found to be important by personal choice (including my relationships, even though I was oblivious to this problem at the time) no matter how much I exercised good time management. Even after committing myself to 30 minutes a day of study for the month of March, I withdrew from the course in April after finding out I was pregnant.
Here I was, struggling to balancing the demands described above, and fighting constant nausea and fatigue. It was a recipe for disaster.
Reluctantly, I also set aside my running and fitness goals to focus on just surviving all of the other commitments piled on my plate, along with feeling so crappy.
Even now, months later, I am mad at myself for having failed so miserably at achieving my goals. I feel genuinely ashamed, and incredibly disappointed in myself. Perhaps I could have planned better, perhaps I should have started waking up even earlier, perhaps . . . perhaps . . . perhaps. I’m trying to learn that I can’t do it all & that sometimes, saying “NO” is a perfectly okay response when asked to take on something else because if I can’t learn to do so, my personal well-being & aspirations suffer.
Now, halfway through week three of my maternity leave, in this strange pocket of time after the demands of school, and before baby, I have finally achieved what I hoped to at the beginning of 2017. I started maternity leave a bit early to give myself time to de-stress, clean the house, & generally prepare with some self-care. I didn’t go back to the pool in September to teach aquafit. And I resigned from being the condo association administrator at our AGM in November.
Today, I’m calm and settled. The measurement of my success isn’t how busy I am. I am in control of how I spend my time and where I direct my energy, more than I have at any other point in my life.
While I may be learning how to me a Mom in 2018, (& I recognize that this journey will be anything but easy) it was a conscious decision to do so on my part. It’s somewhere I’ve decided to devote my time and energy. It’s a decision I made. I’m so looking forward to having the luxury of time & space in 2018 to measure my success by my health, my personal fulfillment, & my happiness. Finally.