Taking care of myself

I was always a focused person: in high school I excelled in sports and academics. I had my pick of an academic or athletic scholarship (I picked one then the other). As an undergrad, I had no problem getting straight-As. As an MS student, I was able to shine even among the surrounding PhD students. I was off to becoming a lead researcher at a national lab. My PhD was filled with awards before eventually becoming the head of an industrial lab. Everything was lining up. Except that I only really mentioned work and school stuff. I didn’t really try to take care of myself emotionally or enjoy myself. Physically, I did (and still do) take good care of myself. Even with the new bundle, my work activities and physical exercise are still a big part of my life. A few days ago, I had just put the little one to sleep and after a long week, I just collapsed on the couch and sat there for about 30 minutes just looking at the wall. Completely blank. Every once in a while I have to remind myself to step back and gather some perspective and I’ve decided that this leave is my chance to do this. No one ever tells me when I’m running too hard, but what’s the point of working so hard if I can’t enjoy. When I retire and people ask what I did, I don’t want work to even come out of my mouth other than, “I was a professor”. I want the rest of the stuff to be about great times I had with friends and family. I do have those, but they frequently are taking the back seat and I’ve realized that I want to start making active decisions to prevent burnout.  I’ve been checking emails, but I’ve decided that I’m going to completely avoid this next grant cycle. In the middle of the Spring semester I’ll pick it back up, but I want to start taking more breaks and leave work at the door. When I go on a backpacking trip, I don’t want to worry about whether an experiment will provide useful data to keep me funded. I love what I do, and couldn’t be happier with my career, I just want to give the brain a break.

 

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