In April of this year I started an experiment. After almost ten months (gasp!) of not reporting to an employer, I took a gamble and accepted a position that would get close to full-time for several months. Four months later, I am nearing the end of the ‘busy season’ at the agency I am working for, and I am ready to report some findings.
- I love working. I love being around other people, even if they are all approximately half my age. I love the joking, the camaraderie, the sense of belonging. I love having a regular schedule — I get to work at a certain time, I set up my area, I greet my students, I work through the program, I send them on their way. I like learning from my colleagues and from my students. Yes, I am the oldest employee at our office, but I am continually learning new things — new strategies that work with students, new ways of thinking about instruction, and even the latest slang terms (FYI, according to a student ‘whip’ means ‘to drive’).
- Working is good for me. On days that I work, I move more, I laugh more, I think more, and I interact more. All of these ‘mores’ make me feel better. While I am working, I very rarely notice any symptoms of my illness. I focus on my students and the task at hand, not on the pain in my hip or the inflammation in my joints.
- After a certain point, the number of hours I work is inversely related to the number of hours that I can effectively interact with my family. (Did you see that? I think I did math!) In other words, the more I work, the less mental energy I have left to communicate with, love on, and support my immediate family members. I haven’t quite found the threshold at which this inverse relationship occurs. I suspect that if I keep my work hours around 20-25 per week, I will still be able to hold real conversations, answer the phone at 7pm, and occasionally chat over dinner. I have learned that after 40 hours, 35 hours, or even 32 hours of interaction with students, my ability to be available to my people after 6pm is dramatically limited.
- In order to keep working, I have to schedule in time for exercise — not just a leisurely walk a couple of days a week after work, but real exercise. At the gym. Weights. Cardio. Pilates. All of it. When I realized how much I would be working this summer, I put a hold on my gym membership from April 15-August 15. My theory was that the weather would be nice, so I would be walking. I could do Pilates at home. Yeah, yeah. Good intentions. I have certainly gone for many walks this summer. In fact, on my lunch hour at work, I often eat while walking. I usually walk for close to 45 minutes during my one-hour break. That’s good, but it’s not enough. I need to do Pilates more consistently, not just once or twice a week. I need to get back in the pool to decrease my inflammation and increase my mobility. It’s got to be part of the schedule. Starting August 15, it will be.
- Family and friends are more important than working. I am going to have to be disciplined enough to limit my hours so that I don’t sacrifice a chat on the phone with my sister, catching up with my daughters or sons over Skype, or spending the afternoon at a family reunion. I asked for Wednesday mornings off starting after Labor Day so that I can get my weekly time with my Bible study battalion. I plan to reserve every Friday afternoon for walkabout with the husband. Skyping and phone chats will be scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays.
- Working reshapes my time for blogging. Before I started working, I blogged every morning while enjoying my morning beverages. This summer I have blogged whenever I have found time to spare. For the fall? Well, I am hoping to find a new rhythm that will include work, exercise, Bible study, family and friends, and blogging. Because all of these things add up to a healthy and happy me.
- And those other things that have to be done in life — cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc? I am finding that they aren’t that important and that they happen when they truly need to happen.
So, the experiment has been good. Yes, I have had some rough days. Yes, I have cried some tears of exhaustion and frustration. Yes, I have missed out on some opportunities. However, I have made some great friends, I have learned so much, and I have been able to recognize some of my limitations and make a plan to adapt my schedule accordingly. So now, onto the next phase of the experiment.
Show me Your ways, O Lord,
Teach me Your paths;
Guide me in Your truth and teach me.