Eleanor Humphrey works at Marian Middle School, a school that serves adolescent girls of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Marian is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by fostering comprehensive development as a foundation for college readiness. Eleanor works in the language arts department, library and directs an after school choir.
For all the talk and value put on living in the moment, I am hopelessly future-oriented (I’m sure I have my U.S. cultural base to thank for that). So far this year, I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had to force myself to stop thinking (or in most cases worrying) about how I’m going to handle something 3 days from now... or 3 months from now... or next year... I have to say to myself, “Eleanor, it’s Saturday - open a book, turn on some music, call a friend, turn off your brain - you can solve that problem on Monday. Now is your ‘you’ time.” This time is so important to me. I crave it when I’m away from home, and then, ironically, at times, I find myself spending it thinking about work.
For some of us in the Loretto Volunteer community this is our first experience with a nine to five, and now, after achieving my goal of doing one thing and doing it well (rather than splitting my time and talent in a ton of ways and having no free time - thanks college), I find I’m still striving for that balance between contribution and rejuvenation.
In a few weeks, our whole volunteer community is meeting for a mid-year retreat focusing on self-care. So, perhaps in 2 weeks I’ll be able to get back to you with the secrets of life balance and how much time to give to yourself, your work, and everyone else in your life.
However unlikely, here are a few ways I feel it could go:
A. Return to your thing. For me, that’s music. No matter what mood I come home in or where my energy level is, if I can vibe for 10 or 15 minutes to some good tunes, I reset. I breathe easier, my muscles relax, and my brain smiles. Maybe it’s just that simple.
B. Eat well. Sleep more. This is a bit of a cop out answer, but most problems can be paused, or in rare cases, solved with a good meal and sleep.
C. There is no answer because, as a future-oriented person, it is in my nature to constantly challenge myself to do better, which keeps me perpetually out of balance. I will strive for balance, of course, and come quite close to finding it, but there will always be that little gnawing at the back of my mind that pushes me. And here’s the thing: as annoying as it is, that is what gets me out of bed everyday. That pulse, that message that says: “Hey! Not sure what it is, but something tells me you need to do something incredible today.” I think we call it hope? Yeah. Hope... that today something will happen. Today, I’ll work hard enough in the Language Arts classroom that my students will be excited to discover the hilarious and surprising opportunities in a metaphor. Today, I’ll laugh so hard at the simplest circumstance that my whole body will buzz and float at once. Today, I will be more patient than yesterday because my students deserve it. Today, I will embrace a difficult thought, I will endure the painful feelings, I will make tough love decisions and give my students what consistency I can in a society that, in many ways, has already cheated them. Today, I will not choose ignorance or comfort. Today, I will go out there and do what I can, so that tomorrow I can do better.
The issue here? No control. As much as I can plan and ponder... in the end, I can only be so prepared. This is stressful. Yet, here I am.
D. Listen to some other great idea that you have.
In true Loretto and liberal arts fashion, I’m thinking I probably need them all, right? The emergency reset tool, the sleep, the hopeful uncertainty, and some input from others. That always seems to be the catch on those big questions.
E. All of the above… and then some. What some? Not sure. I’ll get back to you on that one. Give me 2 weeks.
And, of course, as much as I hate this inconclusive, open-ended conclusion to my balance problem, the pulse is saying: “This struggle means you’re thinking; you’re questioning. You may not know what you’re doing right now, but you’re doing something.. right? And who knows... If you keep going, tomorrow could be your stroke of balance genius.”
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.