Great Opportunities and Bad Timing

We all end up feeling like we don’t have a lot of time to spare


 

I’m not sure if anyone may have noticed, but I haven’t been posting much lately. This term I’ve accepted a position teaching a course at U of T Scarborough. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I’m very glad to get the university experience from the other side of the lecture podium. But of course I’m still in full-time law school myself, and doing a combined MA in English, and a few other things beside. Still, after a bit of thought on the subject, I had to say yes. I’m a few weeks into the term thus far, and so far so good.

This experience has led to a few results. First, I haven’t had much time to post lately, along with several commitments I’ve had to scale back on. Second, I’ve been thinking about what it means when great opportunities come along at inconvenient times. And third, well, I’ve been thinking about a few posts on the subject of what it means to be a university lecturer for the first time. But that will have to wait for now, and maybe I’ll get around to it nearer the end of this term.

So on the second topic, I think it’s often the case that great opportunities come along at times when it isn’t easy to make the most of them. We all get busy, after all. There are just so many hours in a day and it’s natural to find ways of filling them. Whether that means taking on a variety of specific commitments, or a number of organized hobbies, or simply getting into habits involving favorite television shows and video games – one way or another we all end up feeling that we don’t have a lot of time to spare. So springing any of it to make time for something new isn’t easy. Yet sometimes that’s exactly what you want to do.

What I’d suggest is that every once in a while a good think through your priorities is in order. Some things, you just don’t want to sacrifice. Personal relationships, friends and family – you get into the habit of cutting the corners on these things and it can become a very bad habit. But other activities are simply fun or dispensable. Some may feel very important and you get into them pretty deeply, but with a little thought you can realize they aren’t part of your long-term future. And then, it hurts to say it, but sometimes you can skimp on things in the short term in order to take on more than anyone really should. That’s probably the stage I’m at now.

We all have goals and ambitions. There are things we want to achieve in the future, but then the present gets pretty busy. A classic example is when you don’t like your job but it takes up so much time and energy that you’re never really motivated to look for a new one. But it’s very important to make that effort all the same.

I think this is very relevant to students in post-secondary education because there are so many conflicting demands on students’ time. And students, many for the first time, have a lot of independence to arrange their affairs as they see fit. I won’t dictate that grades are necessarily the most important thing in every student’s life. One guy I know, for example, certainly wanted a university education but his long-term ambition lay with teaching martial arts. So it’s important to know where your most important commitments are, and they don’t absolutely have to be in the classroom. But they should be somewhere.

Anyway, I enjoy blogging here, and I’ll be around once in a while. But for this term I’ll be devoting more of my time to the class I’m teaching, and to various other commitments relating to my long-term career. I hope you all understand. I also hope that anyone who hasn’t done so already might take a bit of time to be sure you can identify your own deepest commitments and goals. If you aren’t sure for your own sake, it often happens that someone else will step in and do your thinking for you. And rarely works out well.

Questions are welcome at jeff.rybak@utoronto.ca. Even those I don’t address here will still receive replies.


 

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