Wow, this turned into a long post. Bear with me…
When my partner was planning to leave the country to work in Switzerland for a year I was worried I would be bored. I had a job, of course, but with him gone I’d have more evenings spent by myself with not a huge amount to do. I had other friends, of course, but who hangs out with their friends every single night? I also had flat mates, but increasingly our schedules were becoming uncompatible and I sometimes went several days without seeing them for much more than an hour.
Now, I’m not too bad in my own company. What with video games, books, TV, the internet and the occasionaly compulsion to exercise so I don’t feel too guilty, there’s plenty to do. However, I was also aware that it’s not healthy to become a recluse just because your boyfriend has left the country for a while. So I decided I needed to do things that would force me to go outside and actually interact with people.
Most of the stuff I did was science outreach or public communication. I joined The GIST in this time and I took up the role of co-lead for the Glasgow chapter of science girl. I also took on more stuff that would keep me busy in the evenings without needing to hang out with anyone – I joined the Athena SWAN/Project Juno committee, for example (meaning I’d need to organise bits and pieces and send out emails when I finished work). I also became a STEM ambassador and I gave public talks about science whenever I could. People don’t always realise, but a 20 minute talk talks a lot more than 20 minutes to write.
So I’d meet the GIST people once a week (plus writing for them once a month or so, which would take up a few evenings), I’d meet Science Grrl folk once a month, Athena SWAN/Project Juno meant a meeting once every two months, alternately for the committee itself and for talking to other graduate students to see what they wanted me to bring up at the committee meetings.
This was also when I still had my gym membership and was trying to go at least three times a week (in the end I fell out with my gym membership but I do still go to some exercise classes). I also have one very wonderful friend who I’d meet for a cup of tea every two or three weeks and one friend who I’d meet for lunch nearly once a week.
In general I just got into the habit of saying yes to everything and I started to really dislike it if I had a full evening free. A full weekend would be impossible. I remember, not long after moving into the new flat that my partner and I would share when he came back, skipping the gym for some reason, getting home at 6pm, to a flat I had already compulsively cleaned and tidied and wondering what on earth I was going to do. Dinner was made, eaten and cleaned away before 7, there wasn’t much going on online… what should I do? Nothing productive presented itself. I think I ended up marathoning season 1 of Buffy. Now that might sound nice to you but I don’t really like TV very much, TV marathons upset me. That wasn’t a pleasant evening. I made sure it didn’t happen again.
Thing is, once everyone knows that you’re always happy to do stuff, they ask you to do stuff. Need a speaker? Ask Becky. Need volunteers for an event? Becky will come and she’ll probably bring more people with her? Want an article written? Becky again. All of that sounds very negative, of course, which isn’t fair at all. Ilove doing this stuff. I’m always flattered to be asked and I want to do it, which only makes it so much harder to say no.
About 3 months before my partner was due to return I started trying to say no. Sometimes I even succeeded. As time went on I slowly whittled down my schedule to the point where I’d actually be able to hang out with him when he got back. I mean, not every night, but a few nights.
Now I was comparing my new, quieter schedule to my old, super super busy schedule. He was comparing my quieter schedule to one which he considered normal and his comparison made my quieter schedule look super super busy. Fortunately he’s wonderful and mostly didn’t mind, but he would occasionally comment that it might be nice to relax once in a while.
I continued to reduce the amount of stuff I was doing. I think I last wrote an article for The GIST in like… Spring? I haven’t been to their meetings in ages, although I dropped in for their Christmas drinks the other day and I’ve agreed to specialist edit a piece about autonomous vehicles. I’ve been threatening to go on hiatus from Science Grrl for about 6 months too – I just wanted to get it stable enough that it wouldn’t collapse when I do… I’m standing down on Monday but I’m sure someone else will do an amazing job.
It’s much easier to suddenly become extremely busy than it is to suddenly do the opposite. My calendar these days looks positively empty compared to how it did more than a year ago when my partner got back. It needs to. I have a thesis to write.
Avoiding boredom is difficult to balance with avoiding over-business but I’m learning. I’m getting better at it. It would be easier if there wasn’t so much stuff I want to do. Maybe one day I’ll get the knack for it properly but I don’t see it happening any time soon. In spite of the stuff I’m giving up I’ve also taken up one or two things as well.
Does anyone have any advice for this? Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed with too much to do? Or do you tend to err towards the opposite extreme? Let me know your best techniques for balance!
Originally posted here: http://unazukin210.tumblr.com/post/135376728209/trying-to-be-less-busy