On Backing Off and Not Choosing All the Things

Tell me if any of this sounds familiar. You’ve got a job, a family, and a list of homework assignments filling up your calendar for the rest of the semester. You have a home to take care of, chores to do, meals to eat, and are attempting to keep up an active social life. You may also feel like sleeping or having a hobby at some point. In short, you’ve taken on all you can handle at the moment, and your days are already filled to the brim.

Then your school sends you an email. Maybe some student group is looking for new officers, or a research assistantship with one of your favorite professors opens up, or there’s a scholarship you’d really like to apply for. You open up that email and get a thrill of excitement. ‘I’d be good at that,’ you think, or maybe ‘I’ve got time! I can fit that in in this open block I have, from 10:16 to 11:29 p.m. every third Thursday!’

That person is me, by the way. I’m talking to myself, because I do this. When I started grad school, I was very clear that my intent was not to let it overrun my entire life. Yes, I’m taking classes again after a (long-ish) break after my undergrad program, but I’m also a person with a full-time job and family and friends and a house and pets and non-library hobbies and responsibilities, and none of those things magically stopped or became unimportant once I enrolled in grad school.

But I also like doing things! I’m in library school because I like and am interested in libraries. Yes, that volunteer organization sounds interesting to me. Yes, I would like to do student research or even publish. I would like to present at a conference. I like what I do here at Hack Library School. I also now run my community orchestra’s website because…well honestly it’s because I volunteered to do it more than a year ago, when I had a little more free time, then promptly forgot about it until the past webmaster emailed me and reminded me that I’d said I’d do it. So now I do that too!

And none of these things are bad things. I enjoy all of them, and I have no idea which (any? all?) will help me get a full-time librarian job down the line. But I also had to almost literally smack my own hand away from replying to an email this week about the iSchool looking for a student representative to the graduate shared governance committee. And that’s what finally prompted me to write all of this. Because, the honest thing is, I could do that. I’m involved in shared governance as part of my day job, and I’m learning about the Brown Act and Robert’s Rules of Order. I believe in student representation and providing access to diverse voices. It’s important work, and I’d be honored to be a part of it.

But I’m also completely slammed this semester. Some of it is school-related, some of it job-related, some of it just life-related. I don’t think I should commit to even monthly meetings for one more group at this point. So even though it’s a thing I’m interested in, and a thing I could potentially do well, I made myself walk away. Because there will always be just one more thing. There will always be something cool that comes up that I would like to say yes to, or that really desperately needs just one more volunteer. At some point, I need to recognize my own limitations, let someone else have a turn, decide what is most important to me, and let everything else go.

Or maybe it’s just remembering that just because I want to do it, doesn’t mean I have to do it now. Maybe the iSchool will need a student representative next year. Maybe I’ll be hit with a lightning bolt of inspiration for something I should present at a conference two years from now. Again, none of these things are bad things. They’d all be nice to do…but they don’t have to be done today.

(My homework, though, does kind of actually have to be done today, so I’m going to stop writing this and go work on that for a while.)

Lauren is Associate Editor of Hack Library School and attends San José State University’s School of Information. She also works for a community college library fulfilling ILL requests, coordinating the course reserves program, and managing student employees. If she owes you an email she is terribly sorry for the delay.

Photo by Alessandro Bianchi on Unsplash

1 reply

  1. Lauren, you are speaking to me! I am this person too & I just signed up for another thing over the weekend. Although I did say no to the PTA for this year and having that off my plate is helping a lot of things. But I feel this so much and I am realizing that saying “no” is actually a sign of maturity and strength and saying “yes” to too much is not healthy for physical/mental sanity. Thanks for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

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