Tuesday, January 12, 2010


A few days after I sent out the emails directing people to the Christmas letter I wrote (which I've since taken down, since it is not really blog material, but it was the easiest way to combine text and pictures), I realized I'd forgotten to include one major detail about my life. And it irked me to no end, because part of the reason I wanted to do a Christmas letter in the first place was to inform people of all the various things we are doing, so that I don't get these uninformed questions after my Facebook status updates:

"Oh, you live in Nanaimo?"
"Oh, you go to church?"
"Oh, you have a daughter?"

I am exaggerating a tad, obviously. I don't think I've ever been asked any of those questions. But the one I get all the time is "Oh, you're going to school?" And guess what I forgot to mention in my Christmas letter? Yeah. Good work, wordygirl. *sigh*

This probably says something about mothers always considering themselves last and especially considering efforts that have little or nothing to do with Real Life last. But that's depressing so I'm not going to go there today.

Instead! I will tell you that YES, I have been going to school. For the past gazillion years (actually, about seven). I am trying to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in English, through distance learning at Athabasca University. Read: correspondence learning that does not require me to attend classes or quit my full time job. Are you starting to get a sense of why I've been working on it for seven years, and I'm not even close to finishing my "three-year" program?

Since starting school in November 2002, I have taken two extended breaks from it. One was several years ago when I left my (first) husband and my job and my hometown and moved to the Island to figure out how to stand on my own two feet. The second was in 2008 when I had Gwen. In spring of last year, I decided I was ready to start again, and registered for English 373 - Film & Literature.

This was a really dumb move on my part, because I registered for the course right before a whole lot of stuff changed. I went back to work, I was elected to Church Council and chosen for the Call Committee, I felt rushed all the time and no matter what I was doing I felt guilty for all the things I wasn't doing. There was no balance whatsoever and I spent the majority of 2009 feeling like I was doing a half-assed job at everything in my life. I hated it, and in the fall of 2009 I decided to put a stop to it. This has been a long process as I don't just quit things in the middle: I have been working hard to not say yes to any new things, to alter my involvement in various things to be more reasonable, and to walk away when a commitment finishes up. I promised myself I would continue Operation Commitment Reduction until it felt like there was some breathing room in my schedule.

One of my big commitments just finished up. On December 18th, I wrote my final exam for Film & Literature. I just heard yesterday that I got an A- on the exam and an A on the course as a whole. YAY!

I didn't register for another course, and I am struggling with this choice. If I chose to do another course at this time, something else I am already committed to would have to go. There are two possibilities: either I quit Church Council (after completing only one of my three years) or I quit going to fitness classes (I currently go to yoga and two Belly Fit classes a week). Neither of these appeal to me. The fitness classes are important because they are genuinely For Me and very enjoyable: school is For Me also, but not always enjoyable. Church Council is important because I gave my word and I would have difficulty living with myself if I quit.

At the same time, I feel frustrated that my schooling keeps getting sidetracked. I feel discouraged that Church Council, which I find unrewarding and disorganized, will continue being part of my life while schooling, which is very difficult but does hold some reward, as well as being arguably "useful" for me as an individual, will end. I do believe in being "of service": I think being a member of any volunteer organization or community (like a church) obligates you to take your turn doing the work of the group.

I feel like I am good at school - which is easy to say when I've just finished a course, but is also supported by the fact that I have a solid B average. I don't know if having a degree will ever lead me anywhere, career-wise, but even if it doesn't I still want to finish it. Preferably before Gwen gets one of her own.

It's clear some prioritizing is in order. Ideally I should be able to fit in all the elements: Free Time, Social Life, Self-Improvement, Family Time, etc. I tried doing it all and it made me miserable. Not sure where to go from here.

*If you'd like to comment with advice, feel free, but do me a favour: don't tell me what to do, tell me how to figure out what to do. I need to wrap my head around this.

Edited to Add: Commisseration entirely welcome! Thank you, Lindsey & Amber.


Amberism said...

well, I gave up school too and um, kinda wish I didn't...

The decision was mostly dictated by finances, though.

I agree, I think volunteering and giving back to the community/church/group is really important both for us as people and the group. Yet at the same time, somehow it is always annoying as all hell. It just never seems to move forward like other things we do. I really don't know what to do about that.

If it makes you feel any better, I didn't mention that I was working, or volunteering in my Christmas letter either! We're silly!

sarapants said...

I have no advice for you, just a big "congrats and way to go" on your A!

mrsbingley said...

Laura, I understand your struggles. After going back to school in September, I am really having a hard time juggling everything.

We've been having difficulty fitting into our new church, and so that has fallen by the wayside for now, though we realize that this is primarily because we are not making the time to commit to the new congregation.

I also have gone to the gym/worked out precisely four times since the start of school in September. I feel like I have NO time to myself, and I honestly cannot figure out how to change that. But I need to, soon. Like you, working out is truly rewarding ME time that I highly value and I need to find a way to get that back.

I am also volunteering on the council of the students association and for Girl Guides, both of which are rewarding experiences, but are giant time sucks (more due to interpersonal management than anything else, as I'm sure you know from church council).

I just had five weeks off of school for Winter Break and although it was glorious to spend time with my family, I am having a very hard time getting back into the swing of things.

I don't have any advice, unfortunately, just commiseration. Sorry for unloading that all over the comments section!

Heathrow's World said...

Not very helpful advice, but just really think about what YOU want. And don't feel like you're being selfish. You're allowed to be happy :)
Personally, health and fitness is a huge priority because it impacts your life now and in the future. It also sets up a great example for your daughter. Just my 2 cents.


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