It took a long, long time for me to be able to juggle two of the most important things in my life responsibly; those being university and horses. My partner (Louie) had a huge dirt biking accident in 2013 which has resulted in a career-ending time bomb waiting to go off inside his leg. How long he’ll be able to work as a farrier for is anyone’s guess, and so we both agreed that I’d be the main breadwinner for our household, and he’d eventually go part time or less. I detest a housewife-lifestyle anyway, and so I am much the driving force behind this decision.
My academic performance then, is crucial if I am to increase my chances of securing my dream job, and my ultimate academic dream is to graduate with first class honours (an A grade average). On that note, second class honours is nothing to be sniffed at and I’ll be only slightly less happy to achieve that.
In the beginning of my university ‘career’, I would almost live in the library. I’d read and write and stress about my performance if I achieved anything less than an A grade, until I burnt myself out. More often than not I would arrive home at 11.30pm, only to get up the following morning and scoot off to class. Things would then take a u-turn and I’d be crabby and snappy and hide away at the stables, spending time with the only constant thing in my life over the past nine years – Oscar. I’ve moved between countries, regions, careers, relationships and friendships and the only thing that has stayed the same since landing on New Zealand soil for the first time over nine years ago, has been Oscar.
So he is a pretty big deal to me, and I can’t sacrifice time spent with him in pursuit of an A grade if I want to be truly happy. I thought I could, and I just ended up bitter and stressed to the point of breaking. My horse is quite literally the only living thing I have in my day to day life that is special to me, with a connection to life before Louie.
I know a lot of people who have sacrificed something for university; even if that something is only a comfortable income (StudyLink really know how to teach students about life on the edge – on the edge of starvation, hypothermia, eviction heh heh). But, the only way to get through university without feeling like you’re in hell is to prioritise your goals simultaneously with your happiness. A sad or stressed person will never smash their goals the same way an enthusiastic and happy person will, so personal happiness should never be overlooked just because it doesn’t carry the same social prestige as an excellent report card.
I’ve noticed that focusing on my happiness has also had the added bonus of improving my schoolwork, and boosted my feelings about university tenfold. I love being a student, the time it affords me to spend riding and the creative freedom to interpret assignments to certain extents. It has its’ challenges, absolutely, but when I’m happy I tend to look more to what I enjoy about the situation. This translates across the board, whether you work, study or run a household. A happier you equates to a more enthusiastic and motivated you, and this has been proven in study after study.
Defining my happiness and my career as the two things that are the overarching priorities in my life means I no longer favour one over the other, or alternate my attention between them. I know that if I am to stay consistent in my academic achievements, I need to take time out before the burnout threatens. But I also know that it is never prudent to miss a show to meet an important assignment deadline.
If I were to give anybody any tips on finding a close-to-perfect life balance, based on what works for me, it would be to prioritise what is important for your present and your future simultaneously. One should not be exclusive of the other. Of course, there are some great apps that hold you accountable and help out tremendously if your time management isn’t the best *ahem*, but the most important first step is to just figure out what it is that needs prioritising in your life and figure everything else out after that.