A theme I come back to over and over again when speaking with young faculty members at NMSU is to find balance. A faculty job is not an eight-to-five job, and the work, whether it is finding the last bit of information that will complete a lecture, keeping up with the literature in one’s field, writing the next grant proposal, devising an experiment that will help to evaluate an important hypothesis, or helping a student understand a particularly difficult concept, can easily expand to fill every waking hour. As satisfying as the work can be, too much work can lead to isolation, an unhappy home life, and eventually, burn out.
Therefore, I emphasize the importance of setting aside time for one’s family, for activities outside of work that are pleasurable and healthy (hiking, running, swimming, horse-back riding, taking a dog for long walks, etc.), and for entertainment (attending a play, a concert, a movie, a basketball game, a volleyball game, or a softball game).
Of course, the irony in all of this is that for many of us, balance is more difficult to find later in life than earlier in life. As busy as assistant professors are, they are largely responsible only for themselves and their students. Senior faculty have the added responsibilities of administration, mentoring, and leadership. The obligations to one’s professional community and to the institution make free time increasingly elusive as one’s career progresses.
I do not have a solution for an appointment book that is increasingly full later in life, other than to remind all of us that even long-time relationships need nurturing, older bodies need to be as active as young bodies, and grandchildren love attention from their grandparents.
As for me, it is a beautiful Sunday morning and two dogs are looking at me expectantly wondering when I am going to take them for their walk. So, it is time to follow my own advice, put aside the computer, and enjoy the companionship of two good friends.
With all best wishes,