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The Balancing Act

Categories: MFA Confidential Blog.

Well, we’ve reached the saggy middle of the semester, when people (or at least me) begin to feel completely overwhelmed. The three factors of work, school, and life are not meshing together in the clockwork-ish way that I was hoping for back in August. They are beginning to interfere with one another, forcing me to miss certain obligations and skimp out on others.

Whether I like it or not, work always has to come first for me, since that is my only source of income and since the English education of over 100 high school kids is my responsibility. If I drop the ball there; if I’m not prepared for class, they’ll know it. It’s hard to wing it in front of 25 skeptical teenagers. And I owe them better than that anyway.

But school’s incredibly important to me, too, and I hate having to miss class or other events for any reason. Yesterday, I couldn’t make it to Columbia’s open house even though I said I could, and this Thursday, I have to miss my short story class for parent-teacher conferences. Meanwhile, the assignments are piling up. I feel awful about this, because I know I owe my professors better than that. In terms of workload, I’ve finished half of my steeplechase (yay!)—twenty pages so far—but that means I’ve still got at least twenty to go. But even though I’ve been working hard, I find myself, at this point in the semester, behind in my reading, behind in my page count, and behind in my journaling. I’m a good student, and not used to playing catch-up, and I’m starting to get that sick anxious feeling (am I going to fail? Am I going to fail?), and the worst part about that is sick anxious feelings are most un-conducive to writing. You just can’t sit down and concentrate on your fiction when you’re wringing your hands in panic.

And my poor little personal life needs some major tending to as well, but I won’t use this forum to get into that—trust me, it’s for the best! I will say, though, that for a few hours last night I dropped everything—school and work—and went with my dear friend, Liz, to visit our other dear friend, Michelle, and her husband, Nick in the hospital. The three of us grew up together, and have been close friends for almost 25 years—I barely remember a time in my life when they weren’t in it. Michelle gave birth on Friday afternoon via C-section to a beautiful, perfect 7 pound daughter, Erin Maureen. When I sat in the quiet room at Prentice Hospital last night and got to hold my gorgeous “niece” for the first time, the first of the next generation of “Wildwood Girls”, I felt calm for the first time in a long time, and realized that no matter how crazy life gets, you should always make time to spend with the people that matter to you.

Congratulations Nick and Michelle, and welcome Erin Maureen, future Queen of the Northwest Side Irish Parade 2030!

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2 Responses to The Balancing Act

  1. Courtney says:

    Congratulations to your friends!

    I’m happy that you posted this, not because I’m glad you’re overwhelmed, of course, but because I’m overwhelmed too and it’s nice not to feel so alone! I’m currently working on applications for MFA programs, which would be daunting in any case, but is proving impossible with the amount of work I have to do for my three, yes three, jobs. Obviously, my source of income needs to be a priority, but it’s frustrating because I want so badly to change my future for the better, and work is getting in the way.

    So anyway, I can’t offer you a lot of comfort, except to say: you’re not alone! It will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end yet.

  2. Kristan says:

    Aww, what a happy ending to this blog post. I can totally sympathize with your feelings of being overworked and overwhelmed… But hang in there! As I’m sure you know from doing this for a while now, somehow everything gets done and works itself out.

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