JOY – I wrote across the top of every page of my weekly agendas for the term in a bold pink sharpie.
At the end of the term prior I had made some drastic moves to strip away commitments in order to focus on the core – that which mattered most. I was determined to finally make significant progress with my on-going struggle with navigating an unnecessarily high level of stress based on an over-filled calendar.
I wanted the reminder that a key gauge for whether or not something needed to be adjusted was whether I could serve with joy. When I was home, was I able to focus on them, or was I at the computer trying to finish one more thing that just had to happen, my frustration rising each time my husband or one of my girls tried to talk to me? When I got an email from a student, was I able to process the questions or concerns and respond calmly and thoughtfully? Did I have time to be present for colleagues?
In an attempt to increase the likelihood of maintaining a joyful disposition, I recognized the value of leaving breathing room. Rather than underestimating how long tasks would take and then having more and more stress build as the end of the week was approaching and there were still many items I had planned to accomplish, I focused on being more realistic about how long certain tasks would take and then providing a cushion. Even looking at my weekly agendas with more white space and intentionality for how I would focus my energy and attention, I could feel the stress subside.
Being able to have that space did not just happen though. It came as a result of reflecting on what was required of me in my career as a teacher educator, the flexibility to fulfill those duties, and which aspects were extras that I loved but that were not required. A mentor had warned me when transitioned into my role, “Be careful. Around here, competency gets paid with more work.” It was time to strip away.
I mapped out a list. I recognized that it made sense for what I was choosing to complement each other as well as possible in order to facilitate ease of fulfilling in a streamlined manner. I asked myself hard questions. Can I really walk away from this when it aligns so closely to my deepest convictions as an educator? This work is so important. I thought. The next question that came to mind made the answer easy. Is it more important than family? Thus, I had clarity for what I needed to do, even if it made me a little sick thinking about it.
I took action and followed through. I set boundaries and communicated my discerned limits. When some of the responses to what I conveyed stung, I reminded myself to be grateful for the outcome of having that extra space. It was a blessing, even if it was bitter sweet.
Questions for Reflection:
- What is your core?
- What has shaped your concept of core?
- Is your calendar over-filled or is there breathing room so that you can peacefully and joyfully align to your core?
- Is there space for renewal?
- Do you need to reflect in order to discern what you need to strip away?
- What obstacles make it hard for you to take action in order to focus on your core?
Copyright 2021 Amanda Villagómez // Photo by Ula Kuźma on Unsplash