One of my readers asked if I could write a post about how I “do it all”. And I thought to myself, is that the impression I give? Because most of the time I feel like I’m floundering! But goodness, I’m so glad I at least appear to know what and how to do what I’m supposed to be doing. I suppose it all goes back to Einstein’s theory of relativity, right? Different observers and different reference frames. From my frame of reference, things are chaos, but from the reader’s perspective, things are in order. In thinking more about this, I was reminded of the movie “I don’t know how she does it”. Have you seen it??
I saw it years ago and it resonated with me. I do acknowledge that I am a multi-hyphenate. I am a wife, a mom of two VERY energetic boys, a professor on the tenure-track at a research intensive (R1) university, a digital influencer, and also a friend, sister, daughter, etc. Most of us wear multiple hats on a daily basis, and I would be lying if I said that I was amazing in all roles at all times.
Many talk about this idea of “balance”. Balance, to me, implies that what sits on each side of the balance, exists in equilibrium.
Well, for me, that is simply not the case. In fact, it is quite the opposite. What I feel is more my reality is that when I’m excelling in one area, some other area of my life is suffering.
Let me give you one example: There are times when I am super focused on getting projects started/completed at work. Those are times when I also forget that my son has Dr. Seuss day at school and was supposed to wear a funny hat or that I had to send plates for his school function. Or that my anniversary is TODAY, and I haven’t yet wished my husband a happy birthday, I mean happy anniversary! ACK! There are other times when I’m super mom and completely on top of doctor’s appointments, school activities, and even their after school sports, and I manage to get that all together in a timely manner, but end up having to leave work early some days or don’t finish the paper I was working on, because kid stuff took priority. That sometimes means I don’t reach my the work goals I’ve set as quickly as I meant to, which honestly can be so frustrating. So, I basically envision myself this way sometimes:
And the truth of the matter is, I probably COULD be good at all things and at all times IF I didn’t sleep. Because often, it really just boils down to time. But, no one wants to be around me when I’m sleep deprived; I often feel like I’m dying when I’m sleep deprived; and research suggests that memory loss and other brain functions are affected is some people when there is lack of sleep, so for now, I think I will prioritize sleep as much as is possible. I will say, there have been times in my life when I did give 100% to all things at all times and each time I literally felt like I was dying. I made myself so physically ill that the first time I lost a ton of weight and had some hair loss; the second time I had major GI issues, lost 25lbs in three months without trying, and basically thought I had colorectal cancer. Btw, I was cleared by doctors both time and my diagnosis was: STRESS.
I now know that my body simply does not respond well to going full speed at all times, and so, trying to do the best I can at most things most of the time seems to be the happiest medium for me. I can’t say that I wish I wasn’t like this. In my ideal world, I would like to go full speed all the time and do all the things I want to do, while doing them all well. I envy those who can. I’m a busy body. I’m competitive. I thrive on success. The things I could accomplish when I was single and not a mom aren’t the same things that I can accomplish now as a mom of two and wife. Not if I want to dedicate the time to develop my kids’ futures, their success, spend time with them, friends, and my hubby.
So, in wanting to do many things, I have realized that I just need to come to terms with the fact that rewards or completion of things might come more slowly and/or that some things I am just going to have to let go. A colleague of mine once told me that as I got busier in my career, there were decisions that I was going to have to make that I simply was going to have to come to terms with. For example, at the time, I was working on my dissertation, my hubby was working crazy long hours in a new-ish job, I had a 2 year old with no family in town to help. I would always stress about the state of our house. With a two year old, there were always dishes in the sink, laundry to be done, etc. It’s gotten a little worse, but a little better too, now with two kids. That said, she said something along these lines: If achieving what you need to achieve means that the dishes don’t get done for a week and you eat off of paper plates in the meantime, then so be it! Can’t bake goods to send to school with my son, but I can write a check and have someone else do it! Then do that! Make a decision. Own it. And move on.
And really that’s what has helped me make it to where I am now in my career. Making decisions, coming to term with those decisions, and moving on to the next thing. With each year in academia comes increasing responsibility at work, additional activities for the kids, growing responsibility at home, and less and less time in which to do it all. That has meant that I have had to reassess my decisions as time goes on. Like this blog, for example! It is so neglected. But I come back to it sporadically, and for now, I am okay with that and I won’t apologize for it! That’s just the way things are now. 🙂
Given that this is a “new year” post of sorts, I will share with you some of the revelations I’ve had and something of the things I would like to work on this coming year:
- Work in more time for myself. The lesson from these past year and the two episodes where I thought I was dying was: I neglected my health and didn’t prioritize myself. So, I am working on prioritizing my health and myself. How? Short-term: I have signed up for a race with my son. This should help me get back to working out and get fit! I love how I feel when I work out, but it’s usually the last thing on my list to accomplish. Long-term: Try to get in more physical fitness, eat healthier more regularly, do small things like put on make up more often (I do enjoy this), do my hair more often (this rarely happens), and ultimately just work on having a happy/positive mindset about things.
- Become more of a minimalist. If you watched my Instagram stories this weekend, you saw that I did some major purging. In fact, the thrift store came and picked up the stuff I donated this morning! I am selling some items to ThredUp, and a few things were sold to readers on Instagram and Facebook, and currently merrily on their way to their new owners! I read an article about how leaders maximize their efficiency by wearing the same things over and over again. For example, Steve Jobs was notorious for wearing all black. While I’m not sure that I could commit to a capsule or minimalist wardrobe (hello, I love fashion!!), I could work on minimizing our clutter and the things around me that complicate decisions on a daily basis. So, I purged closets, and tackling the garage next!
- Live a life of yes. A large part of my “success” in life has come from living a life of “yes”. Sometimes I have said yes, not knowing exactly how I would make it happen, but made it happened and it led to opportunities I never imagined. That said, sometimes living a life of yes means knowing how to prioritize like a ninja. Part of living a life of yes means also…
- Learning how to say no. The busier I get, more I sometimes regret saying yes to some things. I have a few colleagues who really believe in making strategic plans for one’s life. While I’ve yet to work on mine this year, I know a few things about what might yield a no from me: 1) does not align with my goals for the year/for my life; 2) will require more time than I am able to give at the moment; 3) will not allow me to meet my or someone else’s expectations; 4) does not align with my moral code.
- Define my own success. For starters, accepting who I am. I like to read inspirational articles or articles about how to become a badass in academia or in business. You know, articles about Steve Jobs and other powerhouses. Many of them say: Wake up early! Tackle the day. Well, you know what?! I’m in my late 30s and realize that I am NOT an early bird. I DO NOT think well in the morning despite what books and articles may say. I have tried time and time again and ultimately, find myself most productive when allowed to stay up til 2am and wake up at 10am. It’s been tough to do that with kids, especially little kids, because they are generally up early, but now that mine are getting a little older, it is becoming more and more feasible to achieve this. Second, becoming comfortable with my pace is part of that. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t play the comparison game. About all sorts of things too: weight, status, in academia it’s about number of publications or amount of grant funding. I tell you, I learned that so long as you are doing what is expected either due to expectations you set for yourself or expectations set by those helping you paying the bills, it shouldn’t matter what Johnny or Sally are doing over in their corner. You need to focus on you and do you as best as possible. For that, I use a quote from Jimmy Iovine in the HBO Series The Defiant Ones (deep, I know, but oh so impactful…to me at least):
“I don’t give a f%ck what anybody thinks,” Iovine says. “When you’re a race horse, the reason they put blinders on these things is because if you look at the horse on the left or the right, you’re going to miss a step. That’s why the horses have blinders on. And that’s what people should have. When you’re running after something, you should not look left or right — what does this person think, what does that person think? No. Go.””
So that quote, for me, was life changing. Yes comparison can lead to some healthy competition, if and when the person you are competing with is aware that you are challenging them. However, when the person is oblivious because the comparison lies within you alone, and you base your worth on whether you are better or worse than person a or b, then, my friends that is where the problems lies. Self-worth should not be measured on someone else’s productivity or success or status or you name it. It should be based no your definition of what that means. For me, it means doing what I enjoy doing, what makes me happy. That means, family, science, friends, and frilly things like sartorial activities. I cannot possibly compare my achievements in academia or in my personal life or on social media with people who do not have my same priorities or advantages or disadvantages. Therefore, when I strive for balance, or when I strive to achieve all the things I want to achieve, I should do so from a place that satisfies these two criteria: 1) is it something that I love and/or 2) is it something that will make me happy. If yes, then doing those things may not lead to balance per se, but it will lead to happiness and overall a life well-lived. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about!
Until next time! Stay ‘Chic’!