So, I am writing this roughly a week after the initial Election Day here in the United States, two days after our president-elect and vice president-elect have been announced amidst some disagreement, to say the least, and about a month away from finishing my sixth and second-to-last semester in library school. To say that 2020 has not been an easy year almost feels like a gross understatement. Attending graduate school in the middle of a global pandemic has been far from a smooth ride; and with the added stress of the election cycle and from other current events happening, I will admit I have been emotionally, physically, and/or mentally exhausted on some level most days. But, I have found bright spots and high points even on those days where, quite honestly, the last thing I have wanted to do was to work on anything school- or work-related. So, for anyone still navigating their way through library school and for anyone who has yet to start, I have some perspective I have gained from this year that I would like to share with you:
First, sometimes the most powerful form of self-care is simply taking a few seconds to say “no” or “no thank you”. For example, I actually chose not to apply for a peer mentorship program within my department last month after seeing that most of its responsibilities took place over my winter holiday break; which is a break I have been looking forward to for a while now as I have barely had any days off this semester. Would it have been a great line item to add to my resumé? Sure. Would I likely have been selected to participate as one of the many peer mentors selected to mentor new students getting acclimated to library school next semester? Possibly. But, in a time when my hypothetical plate is chock full of assignments, deadlines, meetings, and professional responsibilities in addition to my personal life, I chose to prioritize myself over choosing to add more to my schedule as you have know when to draw the line, so to speak. You have to know when and how to keep your professional and personal lives separate in terms of establishing healthy boundaries that allow you to have fulfilling, nonconflicting lives in both realms; and when to prioritize your emotional bandwidth, as I have grown to refer to it, over your resumé by exercising your emotional intelligence and taking time for yourself so you can recharge and not overextend yourself and run yourself into the ground.
Secondly, not all units are created equally, so choose your classes carefully. While I acknowledged this before when choosing classes in previous semesters, this was especially true for the classes I took over this past summer. While I had been able to smoothly navigate 6 units the previous summer, navigating 6 units this summer in the middle of everything going on proved to be a little bit more of a challenge. Even though some of my professors did adapt their classes to eliminate any extra work that could be either combined with other assignments or omitted entirely without hurting what students ultimately took from their classes, the workload still proved intense at points and took a slight toll on my health for a brief time; which actually forced me to ask for an extension on two separate assignments in one class towards the end of the summer.
Thankfully, the professor I asked for extensions from was incredibly understanding; and, to this day, I am still so grateful for the kindness she extended me by doing that. This summer was the first time I had to ask any professor during my entire college career for an extension. So, it was a very humbling experience as it taught me that, sometimes, you need to take a step back, consider absolutely everything going on in your life, reevaluate your current or projected workload, and figure out the best ways to tackle it versus simply reacting to it so you do not get behind before you can get ahead. Sometimes that means reaching out for an extension, sometimes that means delegating tasks to others within your workplace (if possible); and sometimes that may mean taking five minutes (or more) to have a good cry and an emotional release. But, it should always allow you to take a breath and check in on yourself while you make further progress towards your goals so you do not undermine your own success (or your health).
Lastly, regardless of what may not be going your way right now, focus on what is. This has been especially true when it has come to me planning for my career post-graduation. I will admit it has been sad to see many of the fellowships and internships I was looking forward to applying to are on hold right now due to our current global pandemic; but I continue to remain optimistic as I have seen new volunteer and job opportunities become available regularly as our field continues to adapt to our ever-changing circumstances. It can definitely be hard to remain focused on your goals when everything around you is in constant flux. However, please do not let yourself become discouraged from continuing to work towards achieving them. In turn, as I continue to make timely progress towards my last semester in my MLIS program this upcoming Spring when I will complete my culminating project, I continue to be proud of what I have accomplished so far, be grateful of the support I have received from my peers and professors alike throughout this unprecedented year, and be focused on what lies ahead in the new year now that I have officially applied for graduation and advanced to candidacy status within my department.