I had to go to an art thing the other night and I was making my way through the gallery making sure to see and be seen by the right people before making a graceful exit. On my way to the door I passed a colleague from school. He's from another department on campus, a really nice guy, and we spoke. He laughed and said that it always looked like I was having such a great time. He said he saw me running on campus with some students and saw a class of us at a restaurant earlier in the semester.
People say this to me a lot. The highlight reel is always posted on Instagram and I get a lot of comments from friends and family about how it looks like I never "work". When I had coffee with Donovan a few weeks ago (a religion professor at another university) he made a similar comment and said something along the lines of "you really found your thing".
He's certainly correct. I've been super blessed. And man, I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am to be where I am with the people I'm with. School people, family people, art people...even peripheral people...they're all so important to me. But social media isn't called "honest media". Instagram isn't really concerned with how hard something was to complete or what your true feelings are about someone. They just want to see the good stuff, the happy stuff. That guy in the gallery, he didn't see the social anxiety that had me headed toward the door in a very calculated manner. He didn't see that I wouldn't make it home before Violet fell asleep that night. He didn't see the dishes and laundry piled up because I hadn't been home long enough to do them all that week.
I was talking to a student last week about balance. This one is always doing their best and there was talk about feeling like they wasted time over Thanksgiving break because they watched Netflix and ate a lot. I tried to preach the gospel of rest and balance for a hardworking soul. I'm not sure if it made a dent. But I do believe in balance. If you work hard, you should rest hard. I even used the not so great illustration of me running and exercising every day and eating ridiculous waffles and sweets. Balance, right?
Our art faculty pour themselves into our students and our department. We go above and beyond teaching to make our department great. Every semester we go hard and near the end of each semester you can start to see the cracks. We are all in need of a good break and some time with our families. This too is balance. It's just not always on Instagram. I guess a photo of my feet rested on Zeke while watching something dumb on Netflix just doesn't make a great post. And while a photo of Violet holding my hand walking out of church might be adorable, it's also not for everyone to see. That moment is mine and I'm not willing to share it. Same with sitting down with G for a couple of minutes of quiet. Or talking to Blue about school and Youtube videos. If you're not us or our dogs, those times are invisible and the balance is also impossible to see.
Students love to make statements about how busy they are and how all I have to do is "teach" and go home. I can hear the quotation marks they put around the word teach. It's funny to me because they have no idea how much goes into "teaching" the way I do and they also have no idea all the other parts of life that must be juggled along with that teaching. They only see the one side and think they have the whole story.
The good ones, the ones that understand what it means to be grateful, may even be thoughtful enough to say thank you at some point. Some do this often and it is a testament to their character. Some offer a thoughtful remark at graduation but I feel selfish even accepting their thanks. The truth is, I get to do what I do because of the other people in my life. People have helped to put me where I am today. They made sacrifices of time and energy to teach me and call a friend to put in a good word. They demonstrated effective teaching at various levels to provide me examples. They put me in exhibits. They bought me groceries to take to school. They picked up the kids, fed the dogs and cleaned the house so I could go to a reception. They went to bed without a hug, kiss or "goodnight" so I could support my students. They were a friend to me when I needed it. These are the people who deserve the thank yous.
So maybe that's my job. And maybe that's why I'm feeling weird these days. It's the holidays, it's dark all the time, it's rained a lot lately and at the end of the semester I'm just plain tired. A friend's dad passed away recently and I've been thinking about my dad. Boy do I owe him some thank yous. I guess I'm feeling grateful. Grateful to be in a position where people think I'm always having fun. Grateful for all the people who have lifted me here. Grateful for the ones who hold me here. Grateful for my family, my friends, my students....for my life. And seriously, grateful for you, person on the internet who cares enough to read this. Thank you for your investment in me.
I hope we all find the balance that works for us.