Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lightweight Advice (A Mama Kat's Writing Workshop Prompt)

When Mama Kat published her writing prompts this week, I was so happy that Random.org's "pick" coincided with the prompt I wanted to do anyway:

A LECTURE YOU STILL REMEMBER

When it comes to memorable lectures, there are several options. It would be funnier to write about the (fatherly and kind) lecture I got when I was a 17 year old summer missionary staying with a kind-hearted family in Port St. Lucie Florida and flooded their laundry room because I really had no clue how to operate a washing machine. It would be more quasi-therapy to talk about the lecture (and spanking) I got from my dad when I got two identical Barbies for Christmas once and invalidated the ability to return one by opening both boxes. But the topic of this post is a lecture I think about almost every single day of my life. It is a lecture that I was given during my senior year in college, by Dr. Calvin Zongker, a Child Development professor.

The lecture was essentially a "you may not believe it now, but it's going to take a seriously long time to live our your life so you should pace yourself" kind of thing. I don't remember how long the lecture lasted or everything it covered, but the point he drove home was, "right now, you think your energy is an infinite resource, sort of like having the ability to print cash as you need it. It's not. While it may not seem like a "big deal" to give up sleep left and right, to "burn the candle on both ends" to do everything you want to do, one day you're going to be 38 or 48 or 58 and realize that you have depleted your account. Your health will show it."

I have almost always burned the candle on both ends. As I got older, I kept thinking "I'll give up sleep for this period of time until I accomplish 'x' and then I'll get back on track with getting enough rest." I thought it when I lived in New York City from 1989-1992 and had to work extra jobs in order to afford rent, food, and other necessities. I thought about it when my kids were little and there was no option for me as a working mom except to stay up walking sick children through the dead of night and arriving at work the next day with a sleep deficit. I think about it now when I do my main job at Healthy Kids, squeeze in fitness (not willing to give THAT up), and write, edit, blog (!) or proofread until the wee hours.

As sleep needs go, I am not one of those people who needs 8 hours a night. I read once that Bill Clinton only needs 4 hours of sleep a night. I suspect that from a strictly physical standpoint, I am probably about a 6.5 hours person. But four isn't enough. When Jane Marks spoke to our Certified Public Managers' group yesterday about stress management and said, "I wake up happy every morning because I love what I do," I envied her because frankly I am so exhausted every morning that thinking about how I feel about anything I do is just a luxury.

I keep wondering if (God forbid) I will get some bad piece of news about my health and my immediate first thought will be "Yep, Dr. Zongker was right." But this isn't a healthy way to live! And although I struggle to keep my time balanced and get more sleep, there has to be merit in doing the things I love even though there is usually a slumber trade-off.

To close out this post, I thought about what kind of lecture I would give to students graduating college. I don't think it would be the "use your energy wisely" theme; I suspect that as well-articulated as Dr. Zongker's lecture was, it may have fallen on a lot of deaf and dubious ears.

I would say what I have ended up saying to college students in various settings: to the college student at AJ Sports bar who I somehow ended up talking "life stuff" with during a Florida State game a few months ago and to the film student's girlfriend who was about to graduate with an advanced degree in epidemiology but said, "I really don't love it." And although her parents probably didn't feel this way, when I relented and got a student haircut to save money a while back, the hair student who said, "well, I just got an architecture degree but my passion is in hair design" I could sort of respect where she was coming from.

A summary of my lecture:

Do what you love, even when it exhausts you, especially when it exhausts you.
In the words of Confucius, "Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life."


"Loving what you do will lighten things up along the way.

Trust me on this."


Mama's

3 comments:

Susan Fields said...

I'm so blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom and pursue my true love: writing (even though I haven't earned any money doing it - yet!) I do wake up every morning, excited to start the day because I love my "job". As far as sleep goes, it's my priority. If I'm not well-rested, nothing else seems to go well, so I make time for it at the expense of other things.

Velva said...

I believe strongly that sleep is how we rejuvenate ourselves, when we are sleep deprived, nothing good is happening.

I love the feeling of inspiration in my work, it is a wonderful motivator-it makes work fun.

Cheers.
Velva

Alicia said...

I am right with you on this one! Sleep and I don't hang out with each other as much as we did before my little guy came into my life. However, I wouldn't trade a minute of my time with him! The rest of my waking hours are used to keep my home business up and running. I love what I'm doing, so the time I put into it is definitely worth it!