A theme is emerging for January for me, so let’s continue our exploration of simplifying and cutting back. My last two posts discussed how I’m shelving my goal to be a paramedic. Getting engaged and reflecting on 2016 didn’t just lead me to the conclusion that I need to orientate my future towards stability for my fiancé and I. I also reflected on how I felt at the end of the year about my life.
I concluded that I felt tired.
The Cult of Busy
I hate that I’m so busy. I fully admit that I sometimes use my busyness as a humblebrag to signal my “hustle,” but truthfully, I rationally know that being busy isn’t a good thing. When you are busy, the things that you prioritize begin to slip. When you are busy, you sacrifice sleep. When you are busy, you half-ass things. When you are busy, you miss deadlines. And on, and on.
By the end of December, I was a walking zombie just marking time until business wound down for all of my projects. I was average around 5.5 hours of sleep per night and felt perpetually in a daze.
Mid-last year, I received an offer to be the Vice Chair of a grants committee I was on. It was a potential huge step forward for me – it would be an important role for a prestigious community organization, it would groom me to Chair the committee, and it would give me access to important community movers and shakers. Getting that kind of network exposure is like gold for the young professional.
I replied honestly that I was interested but unsure if I could commit more than one year, on the assumption that I would apply to a paramedic program in February 2017, which could lead me to leaving the region for school. We set the conversation aside in the interim until I had a better idea of what my future looked like.
In December, the conversation came back up. Having just proposed to my fiancé, I hadn’t yet had a chance to consider how the proposal will concretely change the next few years of my life. I asked for the rest of the month to think things over and I’d get back to the Chair.
Being Strangled by Busy Creep
In reflecting on 2016, especially the last 4-months, I realized that my calendar suffered from busy creep. I had over-committed myself and said yes to too many things. Keep in mind, I love novelty and experiencing new projects. I jump at the opportunity to learn something new and help friends out. But in my quest to learn, I had lost sight of any sense of vision for what I wanted to accomplish, and through a death-by-thousand calendar entries, I had stretched myself too thin. Working full time at the College, teaching, and working some nights at the bar was enough to keep me occupied, but I am also the Treasurer of a Board, regularly podcasting, blogging, maintaining a long-distance relationship, etc. I was building a huge sleep deficit, gaining weight, and consistently making bad decisions (YouTube being my drug of choice late at night).
I tried simple hacks to help me, such as installing a light timer on my wifi router to force myself offline. Truthfully, the only thing I needed to hack was my calendar. After thinking it through, I realized that after having completed a full term as a grants committee member, now was a good time to bow out gracefully and resign my post. I drafted a letter to the Chair, explaining my situation, and resigned from the committee.
A Time For Reflection
The Chair, being a wonderful person, accepted my resignation without question and offered to keep the door open if I wished to return in the future. I valued my experience on the committee, but I realized that it didn’t fit with my ultimate and immediate priorities – my health and my relationships.
I still feel bad about the resignation. I had hoped that my anxiety and reservations about sending the email was the result of actually sending a resignation. However, after sending the email, I’m still feeling down about the decision. It was a great opportunity and could have lead to some amazing future possibilities. Worse yet, I feel like I’m quitting or letting others down. I know rationally that this is not true, but I can’t shake the feeling nonetheless. I suppose this is the equivalent of a busyness detox – the feeling will fade over time as I start to feel more in control of my time and life.
The grants committee was only a tiny portion of my calendar. It amounted to about a month and a half of moderate work per year. Cutting this from my plate will not be the magic solution to my problems. I see this as the first step to getting my house in order. Truthfully, I don’t really have a lot of direction at the moment. Once I decided to shelve paramedicine, I lost my direction and momentum. I need to find something else to aim at and work towards professionally. That is one area that will require some reflection.
But more basic that that, I need to reflect on my values. I don’t have a good answer yet as to what I feel my core values are at the moment. Without that level of self-awareness, I’m likely to allow unfocused busyness to creep back into the picture. Without values to act as a filter, I’m likely to accept whatever opportunities come my way irrespective of whether they add value to my life or further my goals (or if they are time sinks that steal time away from more important things). Because something sounds cool, or because a friend asked me shouldn’t be the only reason why I say “yes.”
Once again, I don’t have a pithy way to wrap this up; this will be a work in progress for me. In the meantime, it’s probably time I get back to work.