I saw an article from the New York Times last week and it caught my eye. A lot of articles catch my eye, but this one got me thinking. I had become too busy. I had forgot to appreciate a little idle time. Once summer hit, I took time off and I’m happy to report, that I’ve taken several weeks of vacation. I’m still struggling to unplug, but finding balance in an imbalanced world is worth working on for me. I recently returned from a trip home to see my family and I’m happy to report that I checked email minimally, didn’t turn on my laptop for 24 hours, and generally had a delightful time away from the hustle and bustle. I purposefully returned to my home after a 9 hour car ride and took the next two days off and pretty much the rest of the week. Why the rush to return to work? I announced to PIC that I would NOT be returning to work immediately and that I had good intentions of going to yoga, doing laundry and other mundane tasks, and being available to do whatever I wanted for several days. In a previous post, I waxed on about a 40-hour work week and today, I would say that it can happen. It won’t happen all of the time, but the balance comes from knowing when to stop.
One portion of the article from NYT resonated: “Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.” I am guilty, guilty, guilty of this. Does being crazy busy mean ‘having it all?’ If so, I don’t want it then. I’ve been taking a lot of time reflecting lately as a new opportunity works itself out and you know what? I’m not so sure about all of it. Not just regular “I don’t know” syndrome, but a solid understanding of what has become important. Tenure won’t make me breakfast (or go out and buy me breakfast), tenure won’t share in my happiness or sadness, and while I have no children, tenure won’t be very sympathetic to concerts, athletic events, or stuffy noses. I don’t want to get so trapped that I can’t get out. It makes me miserable and being miserable isn’t something anyone is a fan of.
As a female in academia, I’m also doubly screwed because I have ovaries. That’s for another post, but it’s worth thinking about. While in the motherland, my mom and I spent considerable time conversing about this issue. We get so busy as females trying to prove ourselves, that we often prove ourselves right out of the baby game. I want to have a family, I want to be a good parent, but I’m not sure I can have it all, stay out of the busy trap, and find the balance I will need to be a good parent. I will need a supportive and perhaps lesser employed partner for sure or amazing support from other places. Many of the academics I know have had amazing spouses/partners who have stayed home, quit, or readjusted their lives for the TT partner or have simply chosen NOT to partner up or have a family. I recently met with someone who chose a TT position over a family and she was miserable. She is in her late 40’s now, has tenure, a successful publication and grant record, but goes home each night to no one. She owns a beautiful home, has great friends, but no one to call her “person” in life. She lamented that while she was in the TT game, she was so focused and decided to NOT pursue a personal life with the thought that she could ‘do it later.’ It’s later and as I listened to my friend, I realized I did not want that to be me. She can still get married or find her ‘person’ but her regret is self-inflicted and while she can’t go back in time, she can share this piece of knowledge with other young, female academics.
In academia, how we do NOT succumb to the busy trap? How do we turn off, shut down, and engage in other ways? How do we make sure that we have a family life without sacrificing our family?