I know that I am still a young person. I spend enough time with older people to know this, as they like to remind me. I’ve felt roughly middle aged for the past decade or so, but I know that I am not. Either way, a decade is a long time to feel a certain way at all. And for the past decade or so I’ve felt like I’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing forward to tomorrow.
In high school, college, and grad school, I feel like I’ve always been working hard to finish. And when you finish? You move on to the next step. So, for more than ten years now, I have been in a constant state of “when you finish this, you get to do that.” And a lot of times, I tell myself that I will get to do the fun stuff. That I will get to have a personal life. That I will get to actually enjoy what I’ve been working on. Or, at least enjoy the free time I will have gained from finishing what I’ve been working on.
Part of this is the expectation of modern society. Part of this is my own personality. I can’t tell you that I have struggled to work so hard. The “work now, play later,” philosophy comes very naturally to me. Since I was in elementary school, actually. I would get off the bus around four, sit down at the kitchen table, and be done with my homework before dinner. I spent years watching my younger sister live the opposite way – gratifying her need to play and have fun when she felt it, and fulfilling her responsibilities at the last minute. And I’m not trying to say she did it the wrong way, because I don’t think that at all. I think there should be some sense of balance between the two.
I have spent all this time as a student, pushing off what I wanted for what I thought I needed. Is that living? Or is that something else? It’s climbing ladder rungs, one at a time, constantly rising. It’s following crumbs of bread along a path in the woods, gathering up the pieces as they appear.
But how do you maintain a sense of drive if you just keep pushing the goal back fifty yards? How do you regenerate willpower? My coworkers and I joke a lot about “feeding your ego” in order to maintain the willpower to do what you need. If you constantly deny yourself what you want, you are constantly depleting your own positive drive. And how do you do what you need without drive?
It’s only been within the last four months that I’ve successfully balanced my job, my schoolwork, and my personal life. And considering that I’ve only got six weeks left of school, I guess all you can say is: “Better late than never.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Everyone lives their lives in different ways and for different reasons. Don’t let your path dictate your experiences, but don’t ignore it, either. If you are going to spend your time among a couple different endeavors, it’s worth it to develop the perfect balance.
This was originally written in April of 2014.