Mid-Semester Regrets?

Are you overwhelmed?

October 9, 2019

Estimating our capacity for work and balancing priorities is an ongoing struggle for most of us. What did you say yes to this Fall that is going really well? Not so well? Any regrets for saying yes? Are there any opportunities that you turned down and are relieved to have done so? Or do you have regrets about passing up an opportunity? 


Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University

Most people get exhausted just looking at my calendar, list of obligations, and projects I’ve committed to. I work, coach swimming, and write, as well as occasionally teach. One of the things I’ve had to learn isn’t so much how much work something is going to be, but what kinds of energy it’s going to require of me. The other day, for instance, I hadn’t properly planned for the vulnerability hangover I experienced because of a writing project I had taken on. I don’t regret taking on the writing project, but I wished I had planned the rest of my activities with that outcome in mind. I should have done some more mundane things, as well as some projects that would have fed my energy. This is all part of my larger current research interests in affective labor, and as I learn about my own ADHD alongside researching affect, I am becoming more aware of the kinds of work and the kinds of energy I give and receive from that work. Part of my “Fuck-It 40s” has been only choosing to do the things that make me happy and energetic in some way, which makes it easier to do the more “mundane” tasks that life requires. I coach swimming because, although it is physically exhausting, it feeds my soul to work with the kids and see them thrive in the pool. I write difficult things, despite the vulnerability hangovers, because I know that it is important to tell stories like mine, if only so someone else feels less alone. When I was a contingent faculty, all I had were regrets about the things I was missing out on and excluded from because of my status, where I lived, and who I was. I’m just trying to enjoy all of the opportunities this new career and position are allowing me to experience. 


Melissa Nicolas, Washington State University

Because there is an administrative piece to my faculty appointment, the lines between teaching, research and service/administration are dotted, at best. Most times, the lines are so intertwined and knotted it would take a civil engineering crew to unravel them. While I like that the pieces of my appointment feed and enrich each other, this fluidity often makes it difficult to judge when I have taken on too much because I rationalize everything as being connected! For example, part of my administrative responsibilities include chairing a departmental committee and serving as an ex officio member of two more. I consider this committee work falling into my “administrative” bucket, so when I was asked to serve on another departmental committee, I said “yes,” not registering the fact that this would be my 4th departmental committee (in addition to the college and university committees I agreed to serve on). So, eight weeks into the new job, I’m already on something like eight committees. This is despite the fact that I have promised myself (and my department chair) that I will do everything I can this year to prepare my dossier for my next promotion. 

Honestly, though, it isn’t just the new job that made me overcommit myself. I. do. this. every. year. It’s a habit. Nay, an addiction. I can articulate my priorities (promotion), and I know the sure path to get there (write the book), but I have some sort of mental or emotional block about putting on my own air mask first.  


Niya Bond, The University of Maine

I think I’m in line with all of the other writers here, who have noted a need for finding balance between what they can do, should do, must do, and desire-to-do. I constantly struggle with maintaining this balance. I’m still too often doing all the things, when I should really only be doing some of the things. This fall, that struggle has continued. In addition to working multiple jobs, as well as parenting and partnering, I decided it would be a great idea to take not 1, but 2 PhD classes. Mind you—this was after I had already declared last spring that my new motto for my PhD timeline was: one course at a time is just fine. A few weeks in, I had to drop the second course, which ended up being just about the best decision that I ever forgot I made before. I now have a little wiggle room in my schedule--and I’m excited about what I might accomplish with this thing called free time. 

I always start strong, but something shifts when opportunity comes knocking. My intention waivers a bit with wanting. I recently read this piece by Ashley C. Ford, where she eloquently describes her ongoing transition from creating in chaos, to creating in routine. It felt a little bit like she was speaking to my soul. I’m in the midst of something similar--attempting to understand what deserves my attention, and what I want to do with my time, and why. Clearly, I’m still working on viewing “no” as an empowering move--one that I can use to protect my priorities. But, I think it’s a balance that is possible to achieve, and worth wrestling with. 


Readers, have you figured out how to commit without overcommitting? Share your tips in the comments below.



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