If you look up the word “balance” you’ll find a few different definitions. To offset or compare the value of one thing to another. An even distribution of weight. A condition in which different elements are equal or in correct proportions. To keep or put in a steady position so that it does not fall. All of the definitions include the idea of being even, equal, and steady. Balance is something that many people long for in life, but not as many people are willing to put in the effort to get it.
I am now entering my fifth, and final year of college, and after being within the educational system for 18 years, I’d like to say I’ve discovered balance. I’m not bragging, I promise. Hell, I’m not even sure if I’ve only nailed it down momentarily and this peace of mind will be gone the moment I’m done writing this post. I just know that I have never been as comfortable with myself, my schedule, and my life as I am right now.
So here’s a couple of things I’ve discovered about finding, achieving, and maintaining a balance along the way.
Balance is a struggle.
If you aren’t happy/fulfilled/satisfied, your balance is off. I knew my balance was off when I would wake up and not even feel the tiniest bit at peace with myself or the thought of my day. I wish I could say that one day I woke up and thought, “This isn’t the way I want to live my life, so I’m going to change.” But that isn’t the way anything happens. It was a gradual process. A process that is still happening now.
Every once in a while I have a day where I’m more anxious than usual, I feel off all day if I bother to go about my daily routine, and all I want to do is grab some ice cream, crawl into bed, and binge watch Always Sunny in Philadelphia for the 100th time. I used to get upset that I couldn’t pull myself together. Now I just realize that’s part of the balance. If you take anything away from this post, it’s that you need to be patient with yourself. I am my own worst critic and sometimes I need a break.
Personal time is more important than any other thing you schedule.
Don’t burn yourself out. Is taking a full course load, working five days a week, making it to every social event, trying to be there for everyone, and everything, really worth it? Surprise! The answer is no, but I bet you already knew that. Most people do. It’s just a matter of being able to tell people no, I need to do me right now. I struggled for years, and I mean YEARS, with telling people no. I wanted to be reliable, useful, and ultimately, irreplaceable. That mindset came with drawbacks.
Many people don’t know this about me, but I seriously considered dropping out of school and moving back home less than a two years ago. I had just come out of a 18+ credit semester having failed two classes, my grandfather had passed away, I was having familial issues, and I was facing another semester with 18+ credits. Thinking back now I’m not sure what drove me to keep on going. It was probably a combination of things like supportive friends, supportive boyfriend, personal ego, and so on, but one of the most important factors was I realized I could start telling people no.
It was a slow revolution. It started off with one no and now I’m here, so aware of what I want and what I need, that I don’t hesitate to tell people that I don’t want to take on another project or go out for food or drinks. In fact, if I’ve been home long enough to take off my make-up, bra, and pants, there is no way you will get me out of my house. That’s my time for me. It’s when I get to binge watch all the Netflix I want, read all of the magazines and books that have piled up on my floor, and relax.
I’ve prioritized myself. You should make yourself a priority too because you are important.
Be honest with yourself.
It’s okay to admit you don’t know where to start. I didn’t. It took me months to feel like I had made any improvement. I had to surround myself with positivity. I spent more time outdoors. I surrounded myself with people who were supportive. I left Post-It notes with little motivational sayings on my bathroom mirror. I read Bossy Pants, Yes Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)?, by Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling, respectively. Side note: I’m telling you right now books written by comedians may not be the most intellectual reading you will ever do, but it is the most heartwarming and positive reading you will ever come by.
I also had to seriously evaluate my life and what was important to me. In all honesty, it was brutal. I sat down and made a list of things that made me happy and things that didn’t. Then I started to take action and I got rid of what didn’t make me happy. It took some time and it wasn’t easy. If this is coming across as something easy you can do in a day, please be aware that it took me over a year to make all of these changes. I’m changing even now because growth is slow.
It’s okay not to have balance.
Life happens. Life changes. We can choose to change with it or to stay static. It might take us a little time to adapt, and when that is happening, it’s okay to not be okay. I have had plenty of heartache in my life and I have spent days, sometimes weeks, moping and mourning. And I wasn’t okay. I wish I had some foolproof advice for dragging yourself out of sadness and moving forward, but I don’t. I don’t want to throw cliches at you like “Time heals all wounds” or gloss over it and make it all better. Everyone has something that works for them. I’m not here to tell you that the way you heal yourself is wrong. All that matters is that eventually you can find the initiative to move forward.
At the end of the day, part of having balance is being willing to accept that you have no control over some aspects of your life and being okay with it. I’m not all the way there, but I am closer than I ever was before. This level of acceptance is most likely something I’m going to be striving for for the rest of my life because once I got a taste of that peace of mind, I wanted more. I felt well rested, happier, and more excited. I hope those days start to outnumber the days of being tired and anxious. If I continue on they will and that gives me even more motivation. Let’s face it, being happy is addictive.
— If you ever want to chat about achieving and maintaining balance hit me up. Shoot me a message or email, stop me on the street, send me a smoke signal. I don’t claim to know it all, but I promise an honest conversation.
Thanks for dropping in! Don’t forget to stop by next Tuesday to check out my next post!