I am just beginning to emerge from a busy and taxing semester. It has been busy because I taught on a new course (as well as continuing on with a smaller section on the course I have taught for the last four years). I have more research students. And I am beginning to discover that academic life does just continue to grow.
It has been taxing because in the midst of it all there has been a fair bit of personal stuff to deal with too. I have been grappling with grief and with the re-evaluation of the past which comes with entering mid-life.
The point of this is to say that I have had good reason (at least in my own mind) to feel a bit stretched.
I recently had a conversation with someone who is also feeling stretched. But it occurred to me as I was listening to this person was that the sense of being out of her comfort zone was entirely self-constructed. The things that were taxing her, were no longer really in her control. In some ways she had birthed the new situations and they would take on a life their own regardless of whether she continued to be involved or not.
In listening to her, I realised that I may gain a great deal by untangling the idea of being busy. I know we live in a culture in which ‘being busy’ is too often taken as meaning ‘therefore I have value’.
There are a few of projects which I wish to work on in the next six months. None of them are trivial. All of them require a fairly substantial time commitment if they are going to come to anything. But I realise that if I am to achieve what I want to in this time I need to be the tortoise steadily plodding away. Rather than the frenetic hare bouncing from one thing to another whilst at the same time telling myself I need some mental space.
I think the shift is simply one of discipline. Making sure that on a daily basis (or at least during the course of a week) that I attend to each of the projects that I want to take on. Trusting that if I keep taking a small bite that I will make progress. If I attend to the daily activities in a way that is well-paced I suspect I may feel less ‘busy’ but actually achieve more.