The 2013 calendar year has been good to me. I worked hard, I sweat out my writing, and I chased those middle school students like the wind. I revisited my posts from January 2013 and found that the ONE biggest thing I needed to do was stop being so generous with my time. While there’s been no perfect system for this, I’m working towards it.
What I wrote in January:
“So, my professional resolution for 2013 is to stop being so generous with my time. Not be a jerk but stop being so giving. As a female, I know it’s somewhat genetically built into me but I need to start ignoring it. My boss and I were chatting a while ago and his comments went something like this…(paraphrased):
“stop being so generous, even if you don’t have anything else going on, just stop. you’re too valuable. you have too much to offer. you deserve to be compensated with more than your name almost last on a byline.”
You know what, he’s right. This is not a situation with young students but I think our society has programmed all of us to just keep on giving until there’s nothing left. When I was teaching middle/high school, it was the same way. I would give and give until there was nothing left. I’m doing the same thing right now and I know it’s affecting me. I’ve started to gain a few pounds back (not withstanding the excuse of the ‘holidays’) and it’s time to stop. Finding that work/life balance continues to be a struggle for me and unless I begin learning to say no more now, I fear for my future as a faculty, a daughter, a sister, a partner, a parent, or whatever hat I put on.”
How’d I do?
I moved forward, not backwards.
And that folks, is a big WIN in my book.
8. I stopped dwelling on my mistakes as much. The voice in my head = the biggest pain of all. Yes, I made lots of mistakes this year, small to medium/large. But, instead of just beating myself up over them, I moved on. Yes, I apologized if necessary, but for the most part, I’m having growing pains (in a good way) and testing the academic waters. I can only assume up to half of any mistake if someone else was involved and make amends for that half, the rest I cannot take on as my responsibility.
7. I stopped sharing details with people. I stopped being so giving about my time. I started blocking off times when I needed to take care of things and planned respites on days when I could. I stopped being an open book to people in general and no one has noticed except me.
6. I stopped “shoulding” all over myself and making myself feel bad for ALL of the things I ‘SHOULD’ be doing. It’s a hard habit to break. I started enjoying the silence of my home and the luxury that it is to have space and freedom.
5. I started listening the cues that I was getting to the ‘edge’ of my wits. I’ve started meditating in my office for a few minutes at a time. Turning off the lights, sitting or laying on the floor and purposefully breathing deeply has proven to be a wonderful coping mechanism for me. Planning my calendar for a free afternoon (when I can) after I know I’ll be in face-to-face meetings all morning or ensuring I’m done at a decent hour on the days I’m not working until 7-8 p.m. have been excellent for me. Last week during the final rush, I found myself coming home, putting on all elastic/spandex clothing and not speaking to anyone until the next day. It’s what I needed and I did not feel one ounce of guilt for missing a holiday drinking binge or otherwise exhausting social engagement.
4. I stopped answering the bings, buzzes, and other sounds on my phone. In fact, I’ve turned most of them off except for texts and calls. Everything else waits and the calls and texts usually do as well.
3. I purposefully became more elusive in many areas of my life. Now, if my best friend calls, or my mom texts me, odds are, I’ll tell them what I’m up too, but I understand fully why my faculty colleagues will just disappear – they NEED too! I stopped posting on social media as frequently in general and started calling/texting people who are actually IN MY LIFE more regularly, even if it was once a week to say “hey, i’m thinking of you, hope you’re doing well.”
2. On paper, it was a great year. Six papers accepted/in press/published and a few conference proceedings. My mentor/colleague asked me at lunch last week, “how many you have ready for 2014 already?” and I could confidently answer that I already had two in the works. My life is not built on acceptances/rejections though so while this is important (enough to merit #2), it’s not the end all, be all for me, it’s part of the work I do in becoming a better academic.
Probably the most salient thing I did this year professionally:
1. I stopped investing in people and projects that would yield nothing in the end. I learned to say no and not feel bad. My students joked that I was the “how about no” bear but I took it as a compliment. Saying “yes” was killing me and setting my own boundary was one of the wisest decisions I made all year.
That mentality bled into my personal life as well and I took a good, hard look at the people and things in my life that weren’t serving me in return. I’m not the perfect friend, daughter, sibling, etc… on any given day so I know I’m not guilt free here, but I started saying no to relationships that were toxic, negative, and if the thought of it made my mood turn, I stopped investing in it. Some of those people haven’t even noticed I’m not in their life and those that do probably know there’s a reason and they’ve either accepted it or ignored it. Some of those people were more difficult to let go of but careful reflection revealed that they weren’t enhancing my life in a positive way and while it may have hurt, it was for the best.
As I put a close on the 2013 calendar year, I still have so much to be thankful for professionally and personally. By learning to invest my time in myself instead of others all of the time, I learned to enjoy relaxing, I learned to enjoy my space, and I worked to cultivate real relationships with real people that were new in my life. I accepted my introverted tendencies and quit FIGHTING myself into thinking I SHOULD be something I was and am not. I will always be terrible at small talk. I’m honest and to the point all of the time. I will always look at a crowd and think of ways I can get away. But I’m aware of it and am learning. I hope that 2014 yields the same quality of work, the same energy toward education and life, and continual reflection and growth on my own terms.
I bid you a wonderful holiday season. I hope your bucket runs over this time of year and lasts you until the next time you need it! I will see you after a much needed and well deserved break from it all!