As a graduate student with a part-time job on campus, alongside many others, I struggle with balancing my work-study with my life. There are things I have to do. There are things I can choose not to do, which sometimes slip out of my control (like not sleeping on time). In an era when personal fulfillment is as far down on the priority list as anything that doesn’t help check things off my to-do, it’s astonishing how much of a difference an hour of “me-time” can do.
Like I said, grad school is tedious. University at any level is tedious. That’s the whole point of higher study. My friends, most of which are also in grad school, face struggles similar to mine. So it goes. When I ask my friends how their week was, I can see a near-perfect reflection of myself in their vaguely optimistic, tired expression of acceptance. “The usual.” It is incredibly important to step away from the daily grind to make space for your mind.
There is no right answer to “How do I do this without affecting my work and study?” You know what you love. If not, at the very least, you know what you don’t, so you can avoid that. Every day, I see a handful of people on campus enjoying life, shimmying to songs on their way to class, taking a break from homework to go throw frisbees around the quad and having fun before getting back to whatever it is they needed a break from. I, too, occasionally bring my ukulele out when it’s nice and sunny.
You shouldn’t have to kill your hobbies so your deadlines can live faster. There is a reason why people “burn out,” why it becomes so very difficult to show up to work for just one more day, why mental exhaustion becomes second nature and why people lose touch with who they once were. Being a shell of your former self is no more fun than you would think it is.
And yet, there is another side to the work-life balance chase. With what is commonly construed as a “balance” comes an unspoken obligation to make it work. You keep holding your life to a balanced standard, which I personally think is an approach a tad too rigid. According to Barbara Corcoran (from Shark Tank), the work-life balance is a myth. I don’t completely agree with this contention, but it is a very significant claim.
An important note to make is that work and life are not aspects of existence that need to exist in their own compartments; no, they need to co-exist in harmony. So how do you actually separate the two without having to distinguish each act of life under a label? The trick is to not overthink it. Granted, this is easier said than done, but with time and persistence, most things are attainable. Peace is one of them.
Meditation is an excellent way to learn when to pause. I find myself getting better at being able to catch myself in moments when I feel like things are rushing and I need to pause. Step away, pause and then do whatever it is you’d do if you had no work to do in the moment. Sip some water, hit the gym, finish that art piece you’ve been putting off or literally just sit back and chill out. Give yourself the time you deserve. Most of us are in the same boat; you just need to grip your oars and tell yourself it’s okay to take a day off.