It’s been a long time since I was able to write last and all sorts of things have happened. While I can say that Flirt has, so far, been enjoying her summer and is quite happy and spoiled with treats, today I want to take the time to reflect on a topic indirectly related to horses and, I’m positive, very near and dear to every amateur’s heart.
I’m not going to shock anyone when I say that I consider myself quite good with time management. I’m fairly efficient and usually manage to get everything important done. Well, this year, since I started business school in addition to my full time job, I will admit that I have been struggling. I love the classes I am taking and the things that I am learning. I feel my horizons opening as I discover new questions to ask and see the implications of decisions being made. It really is absolutely amazing. But all that definitely comes with a price. I choose to go to school to learn, but also to open the opportunities for my future. I am ambitious and like to do well in all things. And so, to me, school must be a priority. But then, when school requires up to 8 hours of homework per week – how do you fit that in to your already very busy schedule? What must I sacrifice?
First, I tried not sleeping.
Aspire, allow me to be the first to NOT recommend this choice. It lasted less than a month. I started falling asleep in strange places and, what’s more, didn’t have the energy to do anything or care about much.
Second, I started to give up all the “me” time.
An hour to relax? Now study time. Extra time to exercise and stay fit outside of the barn? Now study time. Blog post writing? Now study time. You see where this is going. However, this approach didn’t last very long either. The problem with working all the time is that you are just as exhausted as before and your brain has no time to re-charge. I became cranky and started lashing out at people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (aka – in my way). In addition, all the stress really started taking a toll on my body. I was gaining weight, getting headaches, and started to feel sick all the time.
My third attempt at fitting school into my schedule was perhaps the most regrettable.
I did what everyone seemed to expect and cut back on the time at the barn. It’s the easiest thing to cut out, right? Ride less = more time for studying. Well, the issue is – you don’t know how much you rely on something until it’s gone. I learned very quickly this year how much the barn stabilizes me mentally and emotionally. Forget any physical benefit – without the barn, I was absolutely depressed and even more stressed out. I started having these crazy mood swings where I would be so happy one day and absolutely miserable the next. Although there were many more miserable days than happy ones…
It’s now the middle of the year and so far, I’ve been just functioning. I went to the doctor because I still felt miserable physically and after all the lab tests are done and the appointment concludes, the grand diagnosis is: stress. I have to get the stress in my life under control or I will be heading down a bad, bad path. So then you start thinking about all sorts of things… and here is some of what I learned:
-I care so much about horse shows that I get totally stressed when I’m there. Why? Aren’t they supposed to be fun? Who says you can’t just ride? – well, apparently you can. Once I came to this conclusion and just relaxed, Flirt and I won every single class we walked into save one at the next horse show.
-I worry so much about this large animal under my care. And that worry isn’t going to go away. So what can I do to help ease the burden? Well, for starters, I need to stop taking time away from her because the rest of my life is difficult. If the barn really is my relaxation time, I need to own that time. Every. Single. Minute. I should spend the time I need to work with Flirt, keep her fit. And I do not need to feel guilty about it. If I need a night off, I have a huge support network to help. And if it really is too much, I can take a day to just visit. Even a few minutes petting her, grazing – it can sooth my soul.
-What are the little things in life that cause me stress? How can I eliminate them? Maybe hiring cleaning ladies is not a luxury anymore – they are something that I need for myself. No one cleans my car as well as I do. But if taking it to a car wash helps me while I multi-task with homework, that’s OK. It’s also ok to pay a little bit extra to get the good plane tickets or the good food.
-It’s OK to say no. You want to please others so much and see your friends and help everyone. But the honest truth is that you can’t. At some point you have to pull back and take care of yourself. And that is not a bad thing. But also, be a good judge about when you say no. Your friends are very important and deserve every bit of effort when it’s really needed. In turn, any true friend will also support you when you need them – I guarantee it.
So yes, Aspire, I came to the same conclusion you probably already knew at the beginning. I MUST take care of myself and I cannot – and should not – feel guilty about that. So how do I balance? The simple answer is that I’m starting to learn what is actually important and what is not.
At work, I prioritize to meet the key deadlines. Things are not getting done as quickly as I would like, but I am honest with my co-workers and try to be efficient while I’m there.
At the barn, I try to go out for 1-2 hours 5 days a week. This is my time. And Flirt’s time. And I do what I want to do – whether it’s work to get to that goal or days that I just ride through our fields. I cannot give much of this up and remain a happy person.
Socially, I accept the invitations that I can and enjoy the time. But I also reserve the right to “me” time alone in my apartment. Because I have learned about myself that, as much as I enjoy talking to people and being with people, I re-charge by being alone. And when I’m cranky, it is probably better to be alone!
At school, I now try to spend more time before the midterm and the final and perhaps a little less in between. Not the ideal situation and not the honor-student I’m used to being – but a necessity in my life. What’s more, while everyone pushes me to speed up my pace and take more than one class at a time (5 years is such a LONG time to get a degree!) I am exercising my right to say no. I cannot balance more than one right now and that needs to be OK. For goodness sakes, I just learned to balance my life! Why would I want to mess it up again? I trust myself and peer pressure is not a good reason to change that.
Overall, I don’t suppose this blog post has any great conclusions or profound moments. But I hope it gives you insight into the struggles I’ve been working through these past 9 months. I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself along the way. In the future, I’m hope to apply these nuggets of wisdom in order to keep up with the important things (blog posts included!) and to not lose so much of myself along the way. If I can provide any final words of encouragement, it’s to trust yourself and what you know to be important. Set your priorities, do your best, and life will teach you. Much like riding with Aspire Academy – you just have to be open to listening and learning and it will all come together eventually.