All day today I have been struggling to resolve my mixed feelings about my too-full schedule. This afternoon there is a poetry reading featuring a well-decorated local poet. I hadn’t previously heard of this poet, but that is not surprising as my knowledge of contemporary poetry is scattered at best. The reading should be interesting, filled with academic purple prose and a lively (or not) Q&A session. As a literary critic/creative writer at the beginning of my career, it would be a Good Thing for me to go, even if only for the experience of going to a poetry reading.
On the other hand, I have managed to fill most late afternoons this semester with meetings and more relevant (read: required) lectures. On the days when I don’t have anything officially scheduled, I like to take a few laps around the outer loop, Rice’s running track. Needless to say, these runs provide much needed relaxation and preparation for the marathon I have coming up. And on the days I run, I am usually able to come home early enough to have dinner with Husband.
You’ll often hear grad students complain about their schedules. Too much reading, too much writing, too much stuff to do. Yet, to the outside observer, our days are kind of limitless. We aren’t required to be anywhere (unless we are teaching or have meetings). We can read and write pretty much any place we can find an outlet to plug in our laptops. Similarly, our schedules are mostly boundless. We can read and write during the day, we can read and write at night. Doesn’t really matter.
I don’t have to go to the poetry reading. I don’t have to run. I could do neither. I could conceivably do both (though in so doing I wouldn’t get home until around 7 or 8. Not terribly late, but it wouldn’t leave me much energy to do anything else).
Therein lies the heart of Grad Student Guilt. If I’m not working, I’m not dedicated enough. But if I overbook myself, I miss out on other things like my marriage and my health. Suddenly, what should be a simple choice between Public Lecture and Running becomes a matter of Job or No Job. Not exactly a happy decision given these economic times.
So what did I decide to do today? I’m going to run. Not because I’m not dedicated. But because there are other things I can do to promote my professional development, such as Not Getting Sick At Crucial Times In The Semester and Having Energy To Read And Write At Home.
Consider this permission to take time off from your busy schedule to do something for you.