Striving for Balance–Enforcing Work Boundaries

No Stone Unturned

I’m sitting on my front porch in a refinished Adirondack chair, enjoying a warm afternoon breeze and a glass of ice water.  I’d rather post to Mindful Stew than grade papers or check my work e-mail.  Or call parents.  Or attempt to get ahead on my lesson plans.  Or log on to Edmodo to respond to some student posts.

Grading these essays will have to wait.
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Teaching never ends during the school year, but I’ve found that I’m most effective and energized during the school day by limiting the time I work, despite the fact that the “To-Do” list will never end.  I want to and have to turn off my job.

I thoroughly enjoy teaching, but not so much that it will drastically interfere with other endeavors that keep me sane, fulfilled, and content.  During the fall, I bow-hunt.  This is a demanding hobby, requiring hours practicing shooting the bow, scouting deer in fields and forests, and spending hours sitting idly but alert in a tree.  Combine hunting with spending quality time with my fiance, cooking, blogging, brewing beer, and watching football, and there’s not many hours left in the day.  But I’m fortunate to have enough time to do all of these things, only because I choose to stop working.

In this Ted Talk, Nigel Mark provides a pointed take on work/life balance. 

He states, “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet screaming desperation where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things that they need to impress people they don’t like.”  A bleak assessment, and I feel fortunate that I don’t fall into that boat.  Unlike many people, I’m able to make decisions about how much I work outside of school hours without worrying about providing food, shelter, and care for any dependents.  That said, I wonder how much our society’s expectations relating to work, child rearing, and lifestyle affect how much time we feel we need to work, in addition to how much money we must accumulate to pursue satisfying lives.

Marks also contends that “we have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries we want in our lives.”  Last year, a coworker had the audacity to tell me that I needed to have less work/life balance in order to do more curriculum work.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was teaching my ass off.  At that moment I realized I needed to set more boundaries, not be afraid to say no to coaching or other committees, and to guard my own time in an attempt to create my own vision of work/life balance.

Mark continues, “…commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you as they can get away with.”  I think about–and feel sorry for–those who are attached to their cell phones due to the need to compose and respond to work e-mail.  I will never sign up for a job with this requirement.  How can one reasonably expect a work/life balance in that situation?

The problem for many people seem to believe that career success must solely be measured monetarily.  And in an economic recession, the topic of this post may be irrelevant and even off-putting to some.  Nonetheless, it’s worth discussing.

Do you have a job that’s tough to turn off?   How do you accomplish, or struggle with, a work/life balance?  What’s your idea of a perfect day in the context of work/life balance?  Did you watch Nigel’s Ted Talk?  What do you think?

Why I Hunt

No Stone Unturned

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When I search for hunting, deer hunting, or bow hunting, I’m amazed at the dearth of related posts out of the thousands of musings, photography, reviews, and commentary.  Granted, it isn’t deer hunting season, but for those of us who take hunting seriously, I’m surprised there aren’t more words out there related to what can be an incredibly challenging and thought-provoking activity.  After growing up in New Hampshire–where there are a fair number of hunters–but not being surrounded by the culture, living in Kentucky eventually inspired me to learn how to bow hunt for deer.  There isn’t anything quite like it. 

An adrenaline related heart attack would be a possibility if I encountered and killed this buck during a bow hunt.

Why I hunt:

1. During the past five years, I’ve become more and more conscious of the source of my food.   There is no better way to ensure you’re eating locally-sourced and organic meat than by killing it yourself.   Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has received plenty of press because he kills what he eats.  I don’t think that everyone should do this but, at the least, everyone should be aware of the environmental impact of eating industrially produced meat, in addition to the filthy and oppressive conditions animals are subject to.  Being an informed meat eater seems to be a reasonable goal if you are concerned about the long-term health of the planet.

2.  I like sustained challenges/processes.  Bow hunting is hard.  It takes patience and a lot of time.  This upcoming bow hunting season, 98 days away from the fourth installment of my hunting exploits, I will learn things that will help me be a more effective, responsible hunter.  I’ve learned that masking your scent is more important than wearing fancy camouflage.  I’ve learned that deer love acorns.  I’ve learned that deer have a sixth sense.  Sometimes, even if you think you are in perfect position awaiting a deer, perched 18 feet up in a tree, downwind, a deer will somehow be alerted, raise its bushy white tail, snort, and sprint away.  I’ve learned that it’s painful to make a bad shot, resulting in a lost animal or a not-so-clean kill.

3.  In many places, there are too many deer due to a lack of natural predators.  How many of you live in areas where, during the fall, you’ll see countless road kill?

4.  Hunting gives me the opportunity to spend hours upon hours outside, by myself, without worrying about my daily checklist of countless things to do as a homeowner, future husband, and teacher.

5.  Hunting is doing something.  It’s learning a skill with tangible benefits, engaging the mind and body along the way.  While technology such as GPS, mapping, and trail-cams can be a part of the process, most of hunting is manual.  You aren’t stuck in front of a screen.

6.  Learning to hunt has connected me to a great and wise mentor, Randy, who is very much old-school. I don’t think Randy cares too much about hunting as it relates to greater food issues, but I soak up his knowledge from thirty-plus years in the woods nonetheless.  He’s all about the scouting, the time spent practicing shooting form, and making sure he does everything to ensure a clean kill.  He’s been so close to deer, so many times, that I’m sure he could write a book about their gestures, snorts, grunts, and other habits.

7.  Lastly, hunting allows me to hear and see things that are foreign and inspiring to those of us who live in urban areas.  Whether it’s the persistent drumming of woodpeckers, the way certain leaves rustle and fall from the trees, or the audacity of a fat gray squirrel peering at you from a bending tree limb, it’s an opportunity to observe and appreciate places that might not be pristine, but where nature’s ecosystems and rhythms are relatively unscathed.

I know hunters who aren’t the most ethical people, and I know hunters who prefer to use high-powered rifles.  I know hunters who kill not for any of the reasons above, but because it’s family tradition.  I used to teach 8th grade students who would simply tell me things like “I like guns” or “It’s cool” when I inquired why they hunt.  Ironically, those same students began stoking my interest.

So there are about 98 days until the season opens.  It’s not too early to get out my bow, begin tuning it for accuracy, practicing twenty and thirty yard shots, and putting out feelers for permission to hunt on private land.  But I’m not as intense as my colleague Tyler, who, if hunting success is measured by the sheer number of harvests per season, is a formidable woodsman.  “Barnwell,” he said the other day, “just hung two stands at Taylorsville Lake.  100 days until the season opens.  You better get on it.”

Do you hunt?  Why or why not?  Are you immersed in a hunting culture at all?  If you don’t hunt, would you kill an animal for food?