Saying no to some activities, and yes to a balanced life

By Claire Gillespie on March 04, 2014
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When I came to college, I joined every literary magazine I knew about. On Mondays, I met with the design-driven post-feminist publication to vote on the poetry we would print. On Tuesdays, I met with the small prose staff and decided the postmodern stories of suburban angst we would publish. On Wednesdays, I doubled up to discuss prose and poetry with the creative non-fiction quarterly and then poetry and art with the semi-annual student gallery. On Thursdays, I worked on the campus newspaper.

Because I love writing and publishing, this schedule suited me fine, and I generally loved what I did. Yet involving myself so heavily in so many varying activities eventually left me exhausted and unbalanced. I struggled to exercise and eat healthfully. I had little time left for my friends and, most importantly, myself.

Besides these factors, my work was limited to the very basic level that corresponds with the beginning of any membership. I selected poetry, prose, and art to go into each literary magazine I had joined and I loved it. But I also love leading people, designing, and communicating with authors.

More time for myself, my friends and my health

This year I began to choose my activities, narrowing down my literary magazine involvement to just one. I began to manage a staff, design the pages, and communicate with authors at this magazine in addition to choosing what to publish. After ceasing my involvement in all the other literary magazines, I still have more time for myself, my friends, and my health. I discovered that I liked this lifestyle – the work I was doing and the extra time I had – more than my previous busy lifestyle.

I always knew I could work hard. This past year taught me that hard work is not becoming a member of everything I am interested in, but in actually choosing my favorite activity and becoming especially involved in it. I did give up some literary magazines that I truly admired and enjoyed, but I took that risk because I know myself and my interests. Ultimately, joining every literary magazine – or intramural sport or making friends with everyone – was good for me. But to continue on would have been disastrous as I became more and more involved in each magazine.

And so I am selective -- not only with my literary magazine activities, but with whom I spend my time, how many hours I work, and how much time I spend studying a specific subject. I am selective with what I do for fun and am still willing to stay inside and study if nothing suits my preferences.

I know what I love

At the same time, if I find something I absolutely love – whether it’s an activity, a class, a career opportunity, or an event – I participate in it fully and absolutely. Narrowing down my activities in one area actually increases my activities in all other areas and leaves me more fulfilled than I ever would have been pursuing many activities in one area.

At this point, I know what I love both generally and particularly. I love English literature and the annual magazine that receives submission from all over the world. I love my upper-level seminars and my piano lessons more than I love the marketing I do for another club. I love meeting new people, but not every day. I love coffee but will not pay more than $2.50 for a cup. I love flowers in my dorm room but will throw them away when they die.

I’ve become less sentimental, I suppose, but I’ve become much more balanced. And there’s something very sentimental about that.

About the Author

Claire Gillespie

Claire Gillespie

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