Education,  Life,  Studying

You Need Balance, Grasshopper

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So the question is why I didn’t post for most of May and all of June.

I suppose the answer can be made very simple: school. Reality is a bit more than that, of course.

It wasn’t really a secret, and I posted about it a couple of times before running silent, that I was returning to university for an undergraduate degree. I talked about the plans in a lot of detail yesterday, so I’m not going to go into it again. But it might be worth discussing exactly what that means in terms of a time commitment.

You can find it a number of places on the Queen’s website tree, and I’m sure on a variety of other school websites as well, that, on average, a university course needs about 10 hours of work per week, counting lectures, homework, labs, study time, etc. That’s during the normal course of events. The spring and summer terms are a bit different. A one-term course is compressed into six weeks, and a two-term course is compressed into twelve.

Beginning on May 10th, I was taking three courses at the same time. A simple doubling would put that at 20 hours per week per course, since the courses are done in half as much time. You also need to take into account that there is no reading week in the summer, so it might even be just a little bit more than that.

In my case, a 60-hour workweek seemed relatively normal. The job I held at the casino for the last couple of years had me in the building for anywhere between 45 and 55 hours in a week plus I carried a cell phone and had a laptop for work, with the expectation that I would respond to important and relevant messages and email when I wasn’t in the building. Add in the commute, and I was certainly 60 hours a week, probably more most of the time.

60 hours a week of academic work, however, is a little bit different. A lot of it, almost all of it, is spent staring at computer screens when all of your work is virtual. There is no walking from class to class, because you change classes with a few mouse clicks. So there’s no break, no built in mental down time, no tiny amount of exercise.

And then we need to think about the fact that I’m 50, have a definite plan, and need to get things right the first time, every time. That’s the real fact of the matter when you try such a major life shift at my age. It’s motivating and focusing, but it also adds a little bit of stress. So that 60 hours is sometimes a little bit more to make sure I’m working things out properly.

At the end of June, I finished the only one of those three courses that was a single-term course equivalent. In theory, that means I should have dropped to about a 40-hour work week. Wonderful if that had been the case. Note to self: you have to do well on everything the first time. Second note to self: don’t forget about the additional specialty courses you are taking to add onto your TESL certification.

Realistically, it has taken me until the last few days to find a proper balance. And yes, it’s entirely possible that the broken elbow may have contributed to that a little bit. If that’s the case, so be it.

With the reminder to slow down and smell the pizza once in awhile, but still lots of academic stuff to accomplish between now and the end of final exams before I get a short break in August leading up to my first term back on campus, I am remembering to take a little time for myself, to get a little exercise, and to spend some time away from the computer.

An old Steven Wright quip: “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” That can equally apply to things you want to do and the amount of available time. A good lesson, one I periodically need to relearn.

Be well, everyone.

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