Achieving work-life balance while working full time, going to grad school and adjusting to a global pandemic is no easy task, but sometimes all you need is a positive outlook and a good beer.
March 2021 - one year later.
It is surreal to think that one year ago our world was turned upside down with the COVID-19 outbreak. For one year, we’ve all mastered (or tried to master) the art of adapting our lives to a global pandemic, whether that’s working remotely, social distancing, staying healthy, finding new hobbies or just staying sane. No matter what we’re going through, how well or poorly we continue to adjust to this situation, we have to remember that life is about balance and that we’re in this together. We all are walking towards the light at the end of the tunnel, which is getting brighter and brighter by the day. We are going to get through this, and North Carolina’s increases in vaccine eligibility makes us see the light brighter than ever before.
Like everyone else in the world, I too am continuing to adjust to COVID-19 and everything that comes with it. My situation is not unique, because I’m just an everyday guy who is working full-time, getting my master’s degree part-time and surviving every day like everyone else. This idea of “work-life balance” is something I’m actively searching for, and admittedly, it’s sometimes hard to find and remind myself that it actually exists. There are certain moments in my day when I feel that everything happening to me is singular and unique - no one else is going through the same thing I am. How could they? I’m my own person, right? These problems are my own.
Then I was reminded that I couldn’t be more wrong. Let me paint this picture for you and explain why: it’s Wednesday night, and I’m attending class virtually. It was a long day at the office, and I know I will have to log back into work once the class is over. My professor is going through his lecture slides about Waterfall Structures, Real Estate Investment Trusts and Dividend Yield calculations. Although it’s a long lecture, it captures the attention of everyone who is listening, because we all know this will be applicable in our careers. As I’m taking notes, I look at my classmates, all with their videos on and faces visible. Some of them are in work clothes, others in pajamas, but I feel we all have the same expression on our faces: one) “how do these waterfall calculations work?”, and two) “is anyone else struggling like me right now?”. I look down at my phone at a text message I receive from a classmate:
Then it hit me. I’m not the only one going through the struggle of balancing everything in my life. Even my classmates are experiencing the challenges of work, school, and life in general, all jammed into 24-hour days. My classmate was right in the fact that we are all in this together. Not to get the High School Musical theme song stuck in your head right now, but there is truth in it. My colleagues, my professors, and my classmates are all dealing with challenges every day, and like me, are trying to achieve work-life balance in the middle of a pandemic. No one asked for this; no one is enjoying this; all we can do is keep charging along, maintain a positive attitude, and help each other get through this. We have to enjoy the little things throughout the day that help make a long day seem short and a dark day seem bright.
To understand better how my classmates are getting through work, going to school and surviving the pandemic, I asked around for advice on how they manage everything. Some advice that stuck out to me was:
Take things day-by-day
It’s safe to say most of my classmates and I have type-A personalities and are more “go-getters” than most people. Generally speaking, type-A people tend to be planners and prefer to have their days, weeks and months scheduled to avoid surprises and disappointments. I was told that instead of planning out the future so far in advance, just make it a goal to take things day-by-day. In today’s world, conquering every day is a challenge, but consider conquering and completing each day as a victory. It’s encouraging to still look forward to the future, but don’t look too far ahead. Don’t plan everything out, because you might miss things happening right in front of you. And if there is one thing we learned from COVID-19, we don’t know where we’ll be or what our lives will be like in a year.
Appreciate the little things
“It’s the little things in life” is a cliche we’ve all heard before, but you have to ask yourself whether or not you truly understand and appreciate it. I would be a hypocrite if I wrote that I enjoy the little things in life. It’s something I’ve always struggled with. Hearing that from a classmate of mine changed my perspective towards it. She told me that there are so many small things we should appreciate in the world and throughout our days. She provided eye-opening examples such as the weather being beautiful; your coffee tasting extra good that morning; you hitting mostly green lights on your way to work; your order not being messed up when ordering takeout, etc. I laughed at her suggestions because they are true. We have to look at the small, beautiful things that happen to us throughout the day to keep us from feeling negative and getting stuck in a bad habit of only seeing the bad.
Understand that your priorities can change
Life today is all about being flexible and understanding that things can change very quickly, and we have to adapt to those changes. Like employers granting work-place flexibility, we have to grant ourselves work-life flexibility. We have to acknowledge that the only thing constant in this world is change, and sometimes that can change our priorities. A great example I heard from a classmate was that during a normal day, our priorities can be as simple as going to work and finishing up assignments. Once you add school into the mix, those priorities now become assignments both at work and in class. To top off that daily concoction, let’s sprinkle the pandemic into the mix. Our priorities have now become work, school and staying healthy. But what if we do get sick? What if a family member gets sick? What if you have to work late and miss a class? What if you have an exam and have to take a PTO day to study? All questions funnel down the concept that our priorities at any given moment in time can change, and we have to accept a flexible mentality in order to work through them.
Sometimes you just need to kick back and relax
This is my advice. It’s nothing special or inspiring, it’s just simple. After a long day, either at work, in school, or with life in general, sometimes all you need is a positive attitude, great company and a good beer (if you’re old enough):
Take some time for yourself to grab a beer (or just hang out) with a friend or classmate, hear each other out, offer advice or help if asked and just be there for each other. It’s comforting to know that I am not the only one striving to achieve work-life balance because my classmates are right beside me going through the same thing. There is something about sitting down with friends over a couple of drinks and laughing about the #lifestruggle that makes a tough day seem better. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat; we all have similar issues but also different ones. No matter the similarities or differences we compare to each other, we can still give a toast to grabbing life by the horns and surviving it every day.
So cheers to that.