Balance can be such an impossible task. "Just take time for everything!" says someone who you are sure doesn't understand the intricacies of your life. "Slow down and smell the roses." Oh, is THAT what is wrong with me? I haven't smelled the roses? But you have a major project to get done and you are arguing with the copier to get it printed out and double sided in 42 packets, you have 3 emails to write to students for an assignment from last Monday, you have to assess new students in a placement test called the "John's test" for some reason, and you just forgot...you have a gift waiting to be picked up for Valentine's Day this weekend. So when someone calls you up and invites you to the Sun's basketball game tonight and you just can't, just CAN'T say yes, even though you really want to, then you think, "Man, my life is out of balance" (please replace "you" with "Shane" for added effect).
All of this is just theoretical, of course.
So balance is hard. But there are some areas where I think balance is the key to success. Here's a saying I like:
"It is achievement, not work, that makes people happy."
This may sound rather obvious, but I think many of us in our own lives don't get this concept. Achievement is what fuels people, not work. Industry alone, work alone, just isn't enough. I have known countless friends who work themselves to the bone and feel nothing but despair and loneliness. I know others who work hard and feel content and happy. How come? Well, I think we can start with the idea that what truly makes all the work worth it is if we actually value the work. Is it something we actually believe in? Does what you do make you feel like you are achieving in life, moving forward and progressing? Well, why the heck not?
And here is a related tangent. I like to think of setting one goal in my life that has nothing to do with teaching. Some sort of achievement that only me, myself, and I value. Maybe it is to join a choir, plant a garden, learn another language, or plan a trip with my family. It doesn't matter as long as I think it matters. But generally it is something concrete and finite. It is something I truly, truly want. And then, well, I work for it. I work for it because I know it is what I want. And when I accomplish it, it makes me feel warm and toasty all over (I know you know what I am talking about).
And the funny thing is, it helps me be a better teacher. When it all comes down to it, you can't teach a lie. You can only teach who you truly are. And when you have balance, true balance, you are at peace with what you are doing and how you are going about doing it. You might be taxed, you might be really burdened, but it is the good kind of burden, the burden that you yourself believe in. And that is a very good thing to come into the classroom with (not to mention outside of the classroom).
I see so many teachers work instead of achieve. I do it myself, all the time. But there are those rare times when I know that what I am doing has value to me, and then there is joy in the work. It makes it tolerable to me. I know I'm not just in some kind of mindless pursuit for money or to keep my head above water.
Because what I do matters. And that gives me the courage to stay balanced.