Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling a lot more fatigued than I expected. With the Jewish holidays coinciding with the start of school (read: two days off from class each week for the month of September), I did not really feel like I got into a rhythm until a month and a half into the semester. But even so, the workload was nothing new: last year, I decided to continue to work throughout my first year at Heller, I maintained about 15-20 hours a week of work for the organization I worked for prior to my return to school, as well as 4-6 hours a week with Heller admissions. Between that work, school assignments, and class time, I still found hours in the day to spend outside with my dog or even fit in a nap. So why does this semester feel different?
Being in person has afforded me many positive experiences. I focus better in a classroom. I enjoy the small talk class breaks and walks to and from Heller that being on campus provides. Yet, all of that on time is something I have not had to engage with in a year and a half. A luxury of starting school during a pandemic was there were much fewer social expectations and distractions to get in the way of work. I was able to do 20-25 hours of work a week because I did not have plans on weeknights. I could finish school assignments in a timely fashion because I did not have any scheduling conflicts. I did not spend most of my days out and active but instead had to only be presentable for one three hour class a day.
I am delighted to be back in person and by the opportunities to engage socially, both with my peers and my friends in the Boston area. But I needed to find the right balance. I spend some nights prepping for class the next day, where others, I am happy to grab a meal with friends. Graduate school is about compromise. It is about doing what makes you feel more comfortable at any given moment. Trying to fit it all in is not ideal. The overload can be exhaustive and destructive. There are times where I award myself a night off because I am at capacity for the day and need to listen to my body and my mind. There are other days where I know pushing myself to finish a reading or paper is the best choice. The pandemic helped me feel comfortable setting boundaries and now I am finding ways to employ that skill in my everyday life and I cannot be my best self without the word “no.”