Sometimes, when I read about people taking on “Say Yes to Everything!” challenges, I think that maybe I should do the exact opposite. I tend to have so many hobbies and interests that I overwhelm myself with things to do. For example: Last semester, on Monday night, I had a class for my MAT program. On Tuesday night, I sang in the Westminster choir. On Wednesday night, I tutored ESL at a program in downtown Salt Lake. On Thursday night, I had another class. Friday night and Saturday night were reserved for friends, and Sunday was supposed to be a day unto myself, but I ended up being so busy that I’d neglect important things and let my apartment get uncomfortably messy because I was tired from not sleeping enough and choosing bad times to get my badly-needed “space-out” sessions. In addition to this, I had student teaching, homework, working at the dental office, and driving for Uber. Pile on reading for pleasure, quilting, watching Netflix, and going to the gym, you can imagine that good sleep and inner calm was hard to come by. My neck often hurt because I was carrying so much stress in my head and shoulders, and I had frequent headaches.
So this year, I’ve decided to simplify. Rather than insisting to myself that I be the most accomplished, academic, interesting, well-traveled person that I can possibly be, I’m going to focus on cutting out the extras and allowing myself time to do the stuff that I actually enjoy. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy that other stuff. But at the end of an exhausting day of teaching 120 students, I don’t want to sit through two hours of choir practice. I end up dreading it – and at that point, why bother? So I’ve cleared up my nights, except for the occasional MAT class that I have to attend (and this is the last semester of my Master’s, so that’ll be over soon). I withdrew from choir and decided to stop teaching ESL at night so I can focus on being the best teacher to my other students. I’m going to maintain my no-plans-on-Sunday rule, because I need one day to myself without feeling obligated to do anything, and I’m going to feel free to make a point of saying NO – even to things I want to do, like hanging out with friends, when it comes on the heels of a particularly busy week.
All this is because, as I move (gracefully?) toward being 30, I recognize more and more that I just need a lot of down time. My down time isn’t usually spent watching Netflix or shopping for clothes; rather, it’s the time I use to blog, read, play the piano, practice making new recipes, and keeping my apartment as clean as I like it to be. These things relax and recharge me and make me feel like I’m as intellectually sharp as I want to be. They require a lot of free time, a little creativity-inducing boredom, and plenty of sleep on the previous nights so I don’t nod off while I do them.
The decision to simplify is augmented by a couple of other things, the first of which is that I got myself a puppy for Christmas!!!! His name is Burt, and he’s a black and white mix of Newfoundland and Karelian Bear Dog. He’s rambunctious, barky, and cute as hell, and I want to be home spending time with him as much as possible.
The second thing that made me want to simplify, as well as get little Burt, is that I’ve decided to commit the next phase of my life to putting down roots in Utah. I’ve built up a great community here, and I have more professional momentum than I’ve ever had. Already I’m fairly certain of several job offers after finishing my MAT, and more options keep popping up. I’m really happy, and more importantly, I’m content. I like what I’m doing, I know why I’m doing it, and I have a plan for the future. I’d love to get married in the next few years and start a wee family, as well as think about buying a home. These things don’t scare me; to the contrary, I find them exciting prospects and I hope they happen. If they don’t, I’ll keep on keepin’ on – I’ve never been one to not enjoy being alone – and if the past is any indication, cool opportunities will come along that I can’t even imagine at this point.
Although I have increasingly likely summer plans of working in Chicago and traveling to Israel for about a month, I’m not obsessively filling every long weekend with a new place to go. Rather, I’m taking comfort and peace in spending weekends at home, in my space, and taking good care of my mind and my body in little, inexpensive ways. I’m being more judicious with my finances. In short, I’m growing up. It’s nice to say yes to that, even if it comes at the expense of saying no to all the other little possibilities.
And for your viewing pleasure, here’s young Burt himself. I mean, really. Wouldn’t you want to drop all other activities and just snuggle him for years?