Finding Balance in a Final Push.
04/02/2013 § 7 Comments
Rocketing toward the end of my LibrarySchool career is exhilarating, but the closer I get to graduation, the more I feel like my list of projects to accomplish is too long to finish. I’m excited to be involved in our student activities, my classes are challenging in all the best ways, and my work outside of the academic milieu is giving me valuable experience, but there’s always a voice saying “You should do more!”
Library students are constantly told that we need to get out there, to tackle exciting projects and take on responsibilities that will help us get jobs and make connections. As #libschool hackers, I think we have a greater understanding of the need to make our programs of study suit our interests, and I’ve seen a number of my colleagues do amazing things, at Syracuse and other universities, in order to follow their passions. I can’t picture a situation in which someone was disadvantaged because they took time outside of their graduate commitments to work on a project they really cared about. In some ways, I think library students should consider an extracurricular project or three as part of their coursework, even if it’s not possible to get “official” credit for it.
That said, I know I’m preaching to the choir–library students are an active bunch, and tend to have a problem saying no to the dozens of opportunities we have. I often find myself wondering how much is too much. I haven’t forgotten Zach’s post about running out of time, and even with lots of job-hunting resources out there I know that finding a starter position will be occupying a lot of my attention this semester. On top of maintaining my ongoing projects, a certain part of my attention will be devoted to finding eager first-year students who want to continue them next year. The semester is only a few weeks old, and I’m already feeling my stress level increase. I’ve been going back over the HLS posts on work/life balance and dealing with stress, and it’s nice to have the reminder that I’m not the only one who’s been stressed out in library school.
So how do you know when enough is enough? I’m willing to bet the answer changes from person to person, and maybe even from day to day. I know from my own experience that just when I feel like I’m at the absolute limit of my mental bandwidth, a new project will come along that re-energizes me, and I add that one on top of everything else. In other situations, even when “nothing changes” in terms of my workload, there are days when I’m very, very excited to finish my responsibilities with a particular initiative and hand that project off to someone else. I look forward to an active comment thread on this post–I hope we can all share strategies for handling very busy lives.
Reflecting on the year-and-a-half that has gone by since I started my program, I realize just how much I’ve accomplished, even while being somewhat selective. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we have to say yes to everything–for me, the competitive job market in libraryland means that I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to distinguish myself, and saying no, even when it’s completely necessary, always seems like a missed opportunity. Still, I’ve come to understand that over-committing to projects will make every aspect of my life suffer. Taking on a bit less work, and doing a stellar job with it, seems better, somehow, than doing a mediocre job with loads of projects.
As with everything else in library school, the trick is finding the balance that will keep you sane. Striving to achieve that balance, and learning how to maintain it, is one of the skills I think I’ve learned from my graduate work, even if I can’t tie it to a particular class outcome. Certainly, I can always improve, and I’m sure that once I enter a work environment I’ll be learning how to keep that balance with an entirely different set of opportunities, pressures, and responsibilities. Still, I’m glad to have the chance to practice now. I don’t expect that life will calm down any, and I’ve watched recent graduates get significantly busier, albeit in slightly different ways, once they settle into jobs they love.
Library Students: How do you keep up with everything? Is “everything” something one should even try to keep up with? Sound off in the comments!