I made a New Semester Resolution that I would block out certain days for self-care that involved no studying or school activities of any kind. After week four, that effort summed up to be a dismal failure as I was falling far too behind in my reading which only made the remaining study days even more unpleasant.
One would think that after two years of grad school, that I would have found the golden key to the balancing act of life and graduate school. In reality, I still have not mastered this concept. However, I have not yet thrown my hands up in total defeat. Instead, I am steadily adopting incremental changes that may one day result in work/life balance.
One of my adaptations occurs at my field placement. My agency is located in the basement of the law school. It is cold, windowless, and gray. I sit at the “intern desk” where bare, white walls surround me on two sides. A white cement column blocks my view to the left and a gray partition blocks the view behind me. I LOVE the work I am doing in my placement, but the surroundings are grim at best. That is until 12:00 pm when I venture upstairs into the sunlight for one hour of self care.
I force myself to remain outside for an entire hour to fight off the burn-out which white walls and gray partitions can bring. I eat as slowly as possible and only engage in non-academic activities (OMG! articles from Yahoo anyone?). This is mandatory respite from the 8 hours of emotional and mental acrobatics required to deal with rape/sexual abuse, children being locked up in adult immigration detention centers, blatant oppression of immigrant populations, and all other sorts of suffering my clients face.
To maintain a balance, I set limits on how much trauma I absorb at one time. I only take in three hours before taking a break or else I fizzle out about 2pm. A full 1-hour lunch break may be slowly becoming a thing of the past with so many temptations to attend brown bag luncheons or simply eat at one’s desk to get more work done. However, If am to sustain my usefulness in this type of work beyond graduate school, I can’t afford to burn the entire wick just yet.
So far I’ve been able to maintain my stance for the majority of days at my placement. Of course clients’ needs pop up unexpectedly. However, because I have taken care of myself throughout the rest of the week, I can be more present for their needs in that moment.
Now only if I could have this balance spill over into the rest of my life…