Juggling Act

By Matthieu Aubry, under Creative Commons Licence

Anyone who is reading this blog probably knows me well enough to realise that I like to keep busy. I don’t think I’ve ever done nothing, apart from those awful six months last summer when I almost went out of my mind and drove my family mad as well. I’m just not cut out for having free time. I work harder under a deadline. I need structure, organisation and timetabling.

But I have to admit that it gets a bit stressful. Today I feel like I’m standing at the starting line of a race along a course I haven’t seen yet. It might be bumpier than I expect. It might have more potholes than I’ve experienced before. Maybe the other runners will try to trip me up. So far, I’ve never fallen, and I’ve always had support instead of sabotage – but the fear is always there. What if I can’t do it? What if I can’t cope? What if I fail?

By Oscar Diele, under Creative Commons Licence

This term will be busier than last term. It’s an indisputible and unavoidable fact. Last term my committments were lectures, supervisions, choir, fortnightly singing lessons, and tutoring. Anything else was optional and occasional.

This term I have all of those things, but I also have more committments. I will have speech therapy – it may be a one-off, it may turn into a weekly session. I won’t know for sure until the 30th. Not doing it will mean leaving my vocal cords to potentially suffer further damage as I use my voice badly trying to compensate for the mess they are in. Fixing the problem should make me a better singer, but it will also solve breathing problems, sore throats and muscle issues. I feel like this is something important.

I won’t just be going to the hospital once a week for that, though, because I am also starting (finally!) as a volunteer on one of the wards. This is the new committment with the biggest question mark over it. Clinical experience is vital for my midwifery application next year, and it is like gold dust. I have been trying to get something since September. It will be the first thing to go if I find I’m not coping, but I’m willing to try it because it is so important for my future career. I figure it is equivalent to the other lawyers writing vacation scheme applications, going to dinner with law firms and taking interview workshops.

It might not sound like it but I have said no to several things. I’ve said no to dance classes, trampolining, theatre, childminding, bar work and orchestras. I have made myself a promise that I will not make any more regular committments, because my timetable is starting to stretch at the seams. But I also have to say no to the one-off things. The “that looks interesting” lectures, the “I’d love to see that” films and plays, the “just for an hour” parties that last until the wee smalls and knock me out for the rest of the next day.

My sleep schedule is ridiculous at the moment. As I write this, I am sitting in my pyjamas. I had nowhere to go today, nothing to get up and dressed for, so I didn’t. As a result I have achieved almost nothing since I got out of bed at 2pm. I got out of bed at 2pm because I couldn’t sleep until 4am. I need to do something radical about this and fast – term starts in under a week and I don’t think any of my lecturers are nocturnal.

By Stuart Richards, under Creative Commons licence

I needed to write this blog post because I needed to get things organised in my head. I have to make timetabling decisions and sacrifices. The speech therapy is at the time I normally tutor. To make the two things fit, I will have to miss a lecture in a subject I am passionate about. Thankfully, that passion means that I will do the additional reading necessary to catch up, but I am still hoping that I can shuffle things around so that I don’t have to.

The volunteering is likewise – if I could teleport, I would not have to miss the lecture. I cannot teleport. Hopefully after a few weeks I might be able to move it to half an hour later, but until I have proven myself to be reliable and useful I don’t want to push my luck. Equally I don’t want to miss all the lectures for one of my papers. But if I have to choose, I will choose to do so. It’s the only subject where I feel the lectures are almost superfluous to the reading. I wish I could say the same about all my other subjects – wish I was driven enough and also understood enough of the basics to tear through the additional reading for all my subjects – but at least it’s that one subject I’m confident in.

Sometimes I wonder whether my life will ever get less complex. Earlier today I watched How To Be a Good Mother on 4oD, a documentary about six different “extreme-style” mothers. The organised, to-do list creating, app-using “iMum” reminded me of myself. Two friends visited my room for the first time last night and remarked with surprise on how many lists and timetables I have around. My excuse is that my sieve brain cannot retain enough information for me to trust it not to forget what I am doing when, and that is true. I can’t trust my own memory any more. But also, my life is ridiculous. I am living two full-time lives in the space of one.

But I wouldn’t change either of them.

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