Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Reflections and ramblings

Recently some of my friends have had to do some reflecting on their lives and priorities. How much of personal resources can be used to hobbies, such as being active in various societies, how can one guarantee that there is enough quality time with spouse / family, what kind of requirements does work set, how to manage with limited income and so on. The serious, real life stuff, you know.

These reflections are necessary in life every once and a while, if not for anything else, then for the simple reason that it's not possible to reflect without standing still for a moment. And stillness is a rare luxury in today's world. People dash around looking busy, feeling stressed out and probably achieving less than they could, because they have too many things they're trying to do at one time.

I think I'm very much in the middle of a situation like that. Granted, I don't have a family (meaning a husband and kids of my own) to worry about, but I definitely recognise the feeling of (false) inadequacy, which is the result of having too much to do almost at any given moment. False inadequacy, because I know these things aren't in any way impossible for me to do. But seems they are impossible to do simultaneously, eh. Like reading thesis related books, exam books and planning upcoming lessons at the same time. There's the tiny little limit of not having three sets of eyes, hands and brains to deal with everything at once.

Sure, these are just questions of organising one's time a little better. In this case it may mean I'll skip the exam, because I just haven't had time to study for it (I very nearly broke down in frustrated tears today, trying to understand the damnable economics stuff) and concentrate on doing lesson plans. And since school starts next Monday, the thesis stuff will be limited mostly to weekends from now on, anyway. So, in theory, problem solved - only that if I skip the exam, I'm probably moving the date of my graduation once again further down into the future. Argh. (But if I do go to the exam not having read enough, I won't pass anyway and I end up in the same situation after having "wasted" several hours to trying to scramble through the materials, whereas I could've used the hours for working on the lessons... Sheesh.)

And school then, oh my. It's really quite ridiculous that I'm getting nervous about it again. I should know by now that it's work I'm fully capable of doing (and I'm not too bad at it, either - if I may say so myself), and yet the feelings of doubt and insecurity are back. I wonder how many years of teaching will it take to get rid of this...

I suppose it'll get easier when I've taught all the courses through at least once. Now I have 8th grade history and 9th grade social studies that are completely new to me. I've taught bits and pieces of them, but never the full year. And even the start of the 7th grade history is foreign territory to me, since I didn't teach it last year. In other words, come next Tuesday I'll have three completely new courses beginning, which means quite a lot of work in the evenings for me. Yikes.

Ok, so if I now had to list my current priorities in life, the list could be made very short and simple. (It could also be made a long, rambling list of many things, but I'll keep it simple for now.)
1. Graduating asap, no excuses
2. Doing my best at work, trying to motivate the students and be a good teacher (preferably without sky high stress levels, or 14 hour work days, pretty please?)
3. Maintaining meaningful friendships, because friends keep me sane (and since I don't have a boyfriend to spend quality time with, my friends are my quality time)
4. Family (I have to make time for grandma&grandpa, since grandpa is not going to be around for long anymore)
5. Hobbies (dividing time between rehearsing for one more dance recital to be held in October, editing a fanzine and so on...).

In other words, at this moment my work and my research go before everything. I expect I'll have to seriously cut down my responsibilities elsewhere. For example I'm pretty sure I won't be editing Spin next year anymore. I just don't have the time, sorry to say it.

And that's one heck of an important lesson to learn. To learn to recognise the limits of one's resources. I know I'm having a hard time with it, and some of my friends struggle (or have struggled) with similar problems. The core of the problem is (at least for me) that it's fun to participate and be active, but if there aren't enough people who share that attitude, the workload soon becomes too heavy to handle.

But on the other hand, a simple, stressless life would be awfully boring, right?

After all this seriousness, I'm off to watch Gerard Butler as Attila the Hunn. Heh. That'll keep my thoughts off anything too serious for a while.


Tero said...

(I hope this comment doesn’t sound like I think I know what someone else should do, because it isn’t meant that way. I’m just thinking aloud.)

Just a thought about the exam (for future reference): have you thought about getting tutoring about the subject? As you know from the history courses for the university you’ve held, it can be quite effective. And in your case you already know the subject matter (having already read the books), so I think going over them with someone for whom they are easy would be the quickest and most efficient way to pass the exam. (I know I learn fastest and easiest if I have someone to ask questions and explain the unclear points, even if the same knowledge can be had by just going over the materials myself.)

“a simple, stressless life would be awfully boring, right?”
Wrong. It’s very nice, actually. But only if you do it not by giving up on challenges and things to do, but by only giving up stressing about them. :) (Not easy to do, I know.)

And just one final thought: take a look at these two sentences:

“In other words, at this moment my work and my research go before everything.” –– “I'm off to watch Gerard Butler as Attila the Hunn.”


Johanna said...

I have thought about tutoring, but I don't know anyone, who knows this stuff and at the same time has time to help me. (And since I should've been tutored basically at the same time I was organising the Feast, it's a dead end this time around anyway.) At this point I'd basically need someone to fill out the bookkeeping thingy for me so I could just memorize it. This is how low I'm going at the moment, trying to memorize answers to old exam questions, just in case... And to be honest, it doesn't help one bit that the questions are poorly formulated and idiotic. I'm sorry to say this, but the guy has absolutely no understanding of good exam questions. (And as a teacher I get very irritated at stupid questions, which then only adds to my hatred towards this topic - all in all, not a very learning friendly attitude at the moment, eh? :) )

And about stressless life, I wasn't really being serious thinking it'd be boring. It wouldn't be. But I'm already quite advanced in my studies of not stressing about voluntary stuff (work stresses me waaay more, and there's not as much I can do about that yet), so that's not that big of a problem. In other words, I'm already acting the way you preach. Almost, anyway. ;)

And those two sentences - I do not work or do research ten minutes to midnight. That's the time for Attila the Hunn. My brain is incapable of handling serious stuff that late. That's why Attila ran over work and research. :) It's also one way of fighting stress - if I would feel bad about watching silly tv-shows at midnight, because I should be working or doing research, I might as well welcome the burnout into my life at that very moment.

And feel free to think aloud at my ponderings, that's one of the reasons I write them out. Comments from outside of my head often bring the needed fresh look at things. And since (most of the time, anyway) you have reasonable things to say, go right ahead in the future, too. ;)

Donna said...

I meant to comment earlier on your Eco book recommendations, thank you! In the last few years I have drastically changed my life for the better. It wasn't easy and there were some lean times as I transitioned from a regular full-time employee to an independent consultant, but I wouldn't go back for any salary. I have the freedom to work when I want to, and take time off when I want to, and work during the time of the day when I am most productive instead of inside the constraints of the standard work day. I guess what I am trying to say is, right now having work as your highest priority probably makes sense, and you have other things on the list to balance that out. Hang in there!

Johanna said...

Donna, it really sounds like you've made good decisions in your life recently. It must've made a huge difference for you. I can totally see the plus sides to working according to your own schedules - I, for example, am so not at my best during the first few classes in the morning. But as it is, teachers can't really choose their working hours... :)