On Work-Life Balance

I forgot about September like good food forgets about butter. Oh, it was there. Wouldn’t have been good otherwise. I just didn’t notice how delightful it was until it’s gone. Now I’m craving late summer warmth and autumnal beginning-of-the-school-year hopefulness and its over, carried away by Rocky Mountain snowcaps and rapidly diminishing morning sunlight.

Suddenly all my friends and students have the sniffles. I’m baking pumpkin muffins, drinking echinacea tea, and writing wrapped in a huge cable-knit sweater. I’m writing a chapter-like thing! And I’m beginning to realize that this is what you do when you are ABD: you bemoan the loss of time even as you court it, love it, snuggle up to it. What was once about work-life balance becomes about carving out time to write, every day, all the time. To knit a dissertation in great loops and tiny pearls before the season for your topic runs out. Golden, delicious, ephemeral season.

I received an email from a PhD friend the other day, the gorgeous and talented Myra. “What I would really like to be doing,” she says, “is holing up in my ivory tower spinning my little web. But alas, the web is sadly lacking in filaments these days.” This is followed by a truth, which is universally recognized: “I feel walloped by scheduling newness.” The adjustment into responsibility-laden school-year zone, with TAships and grant applications and office hours and organizing conference plans for next summer already. My dayplanner is like Whack-a-mole, just filled with lists and charts and little empty boxes waiting to be checked off. Walloping responsibilities.

I don’t have any advice, or plans for future improvement, or life-altering conclusions to make from all of this. Do you, gentle blog-reader, have some advice for me? I can only to say that these feelings—my feelings, our feelings, if you feel similarly—are corroborated, understood, empathized with. At least by my Myra. And that’s enough for me.