In August I packed everything up and drove across the country to begin my PhD journey. Starting a life 4000 km from everything I know was fun and challenging. But one of the biggest challenges was finding a new life balance for family, friends, career, health.
I’ve often wondered how, not that many generations ago, people could uproot themselves and stay connected with loved ones only by Canada Post. Thankfully my phone has a good long-distance plan and keeps me in touch. I would feel so isolated without weekly chats to share and stay up to date.
Skype, email, social networks, and the phone with the aforementioned long-distance plan allows me stay in touch with my friends but settling into new surrounds means reaching out to others and making connections.
I tend to spend most of my time in front a computer and it is too easy to become a hermit … and a workaholic. Fortunately, I moved into an area that is close to walking trails, where I often meet many of the “regular” dog walkers and joggers. I’ve also connected with the graduate students’ society and am starting to participate in activities.
I’m not quite balanced in this area yet, but I’ve made a point of carving out for enjoyment. I may never return to Victoria after I graduate so I should experience all that I can while I have the opportunity.
My career has many aspects. I must focus my studies, planning for upcoming conferences and submitting papers, working as a sessional instructor, all while weaving my way through the maze known as academia and keeping my eye on the overall goal: a university academic career. It’s a 24-hour a day job, which is why I love it so much.
Being mindful of deadlines is key, and so is rewarding myself when I reach my daily, and sometimes hourly goals. As always, I believe I should spend 99% of my waking time on these pursuits, but I’m very aware that isn’t realistic. Instead I try to devote somewhere between 8 and 9 hours a day, seven days a week to my career. Some may think that isn’t a healthy balance but doing what you love often means that time flies and I don’t even realize how many hours I’ve been working without a break.
I used to get out on my motorcycle and go for a three- or four-hour rides to clear my head, get away from deadlines, and keep my life in perspective. I can’t do that on Vancouver Island. There aren’t many roads to explore, I can’t circumvent the island, and it takes about two hours to get off the island by ferry. Instead of riding my bike, my dog is going for many more walks than she did in Toronto. I’m much more physically active, and watching the wildlife in the harbour (seals, otters, etc.) is always entertaining.
Having down time is important to me and to my mental health. I plan to continue to explore the city, make new connections, and (gasp!) find time to read for pleasure.
It’s taken a lot of work, but my life is slowing becoming more balanced as each week goes by. It’s a constant challenge to retain the balance, but then again, I love a good challenge.