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When too busy is TOO BUSY

I didn’t put up a Christmas tree last month. I didn’t put up any decorations at all. There was no time to even consider putting out anything to herald the Christmas season. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a first! There wasn’t even a family feast for Thanksgiving because I didn’t have time to think about or plan a meal. We went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. But the worst part about the whole thing was that I barely noticed the holiday season had passed. I was just too busy.

Mid-August of last year I started training for a semester of graduate teaching that was supposed to lead to a two-year term of teaching college writing to incoming freshmen and sophomores while earning my Master of Arts in English at Western Illinois University. It didn’t take long for my life to become enveloped in creating lesson plans for a hybrid college writing course, teaching those lessons, grading papers, attending my own classes, reading for my assignments and reading for my students’ assignments, researching and writing papers of my own, all while emailing students who weren’t showing up or turning in their work, responding to student questions, conferencing with students.... and I loved every minute of teaching and learning, but the rest of my life was a blur. A complete blur!

I made promises to write reviews on books I couldn’t find time to read. I was supposed to help a friend write a bio that I completely forgot about. I was away from my husband three to four days a week, didn’t read or take part in my book club, barely saw my sisters or my kids or my grandkids or my mom, and whenever I needed to steal away time for personal family moments, my mind was obsessed with the studying and grading I wasn’t working on. I felt guilty when I took time for my family and then guilty when I pushed family aside for school. All the time spent away from what I needed to do I knew I would then have to make up for later because I couldn’t bring myself to get by with work that was simply good enough, and I was afraid of letting my students down if I wasn’t fully prepared to teach my class. So, I just did it all, obsessively.

These choices, this kind of life is great, and it works for many, many people. But I’m not in my twenties or early thirties like most graduate students doing it all. And while I completed the semester successfully with student papers graded on time and my papers submitted on time, passing both of my classes with a 4.0 GPA, it’s not the lifestyle I want for this time in my life. I want to spend time with my family and friends and not feel guilty about it. I want to do work that I’m proud of, but I don’t want to be so busy that time flies right past me. Sacrificing time with my family is not worth the value of accomplishments that will come from doing it all.

Changes had to be made.

And so, I slow down.

My graduate focus is now shifted to a new program that will allow me to study from home, see my family, spend time with friends, do my homework, take care of myself and my house, and most importantly, simply be present in the moments that matter most.

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