The Roles We Play

spread of postits
Credit: flickr / 3n

There’s an exercise in 7 Habits where you have to list your different “roles” and  things you need to do for each of them. Here are mine (in no particular order):

  • Grad student
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Ski instructor
  • President of WISE
  • Job seeker
  • Girlfriend
  • Daughter
  • Friend
  • Skier
  • Kickboxer
  • Workshop creator
  • Programmer
  • Nice (i.e. helping other people)
  • Blogger
  • Information diffuser
  • Member of tech community

And I look at this list, and think, no wonder I’m feeling overwhelmed lately. Case in point – last week was reading week, so I should get to relax a little. However, on Tuesday I wanted to kickbox, but I also wanted to go to a tech event and thought that would be a good prep for my interview Wednesday morning. And I found myself in the situation that because I hadn’t managed to get up at 6am (on my week off!) two of my roles were in conflict, and I had to choose.

So I go from a career panel (roles: nice, WISE) to briefly hang out with a friend (role: friend) to this panel (roles: member of tech community, programmer, job seeker). And the next day I have my interview, try to be productive, go kickboxing, and have dinner with friends, take my friend to Carleton to return a book, and crash before I manage to call my boyfriend (who was away).

Two realizations – one, I need to prioritize my various roles. Graduating and getting a job are probably the most important things right now, and the sad truth of that is, other ones may have to be set aside. Like skiing, training is a huge time commitment (with the time it takes to get too and from the hill) and I’m injured – perhaps it’s best to just accept that I’m not going to have a great season. Maybe I need to be less nice, delegate more with WISE, spend less time with my friends. I’m still working out how – but I know I need to make some changes.

Second, there’s no “Cate” on this list – just a bunch of things that Cate does. There’s no chilling out and watching movies. There’s no go swimming even though I’m not training for anything specific. There’s no sleeping in, or kicking back and reading a whole novel. No baking of cakes, or skating, or xc-skiing, or any of the myriad of things that I like to do but don’t do enough to merit their own role.

I’m in danger of becoming a list of attributes that you could define in XML – because I’m not making time for anything not on the list. Because I’m not making time for me.

This will – hopefully – be my last real semester. I think this situation is normal, but not permanent.

Remind me, please, when I’m done, to choose something not on the list – and enjoy it.

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