Striking the (im)Perfect Balance

I have always said that I work much better when I am busy. Give me all the time in the world to focus on only one thing, and I garantee you that I will end up failing miserably. Load my plate to the point of barely being able to think, and I hum along at a wondrous pace.  At least that is how it has been since I went back to university in 2002. At the time, I had a part time (24 hours a week) desk job in an office, took a full course load (5 classes) and managed to keep my 2 kids relatively clean and happy. After a year of that, I dropped the office job and kept the full course load and kids (some things you just can’t change /wink). After I finished my BA and moved into my MA, I started doing research assistanships with my advisor at the time. It was a great balance to work, school and family. Since “work” (the RAship) and “school” were tightly related, it really just felt like more schoolwork. Kids … still clean(ish) and relatively happy.

In my first year of my PhD, I didn’t do anything except take classes, read and maintain family life (some would say that is enough). With my oldest daughter fast approaching graduation (this June!), and my youngest firmly planted in Jr. High family maintenance a lot less demanding than when I first started university in 2002. So, I thought, perhaps it was time – finishing up my 2nd year of the PhD to start “working” again. This time, I ventured outside of the academy, but related in field – I took a job at EA here in Montreal, working with their play-test/focus group team. In many respects – and especially on paper – this job is a match made in heaven. I get to do qualitative research, coupled with learning how to understand the technical demands of making video games, the offices are fantabulous, and so are those I get to work with. Since my research – and more than likely my ‘life’s work’ surrounds video games, it is technically the best “job” in the world outside of the academy for me.

However, lately I have been struggling with finding that balance between school, work, and family again. When working as an RA – it was a challenge, but it was so closely related to my research, that the work flowed into each other. With this job, while the topic and method is similar, there is a jarring disjunction between the work I have to be doing for my thesis proposal and research, and the weekly play sessions and report writing. I am trying – struggling – to find that balance. I accept that it may not be a harmonious balance – all I am looking for is the ability to manage my time and work in a way that doesn’t diminish the quality of any of the three things that are most prominent in my life. Is it at all possible? I don’t know. But I guess no one has ever died trying. (and is someone has, please don’t tell me about it!)

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