The Work-School Balance

Today’s posting goes out to all those working professionals who may have underestimated their boundaries to the point of no return – and who may be questioning their sanity on a regular basis. I am talking about the working student. Do I have any sympathizers out there?

You know how it goes: Work a very busy day, challenged by curveballs left and right, tired at the end of it, but wait – you’ve got that second wind, just enough to buy groceries or squeeze in a quick workout – only to race home, hoping that your third wind kicks in with enough energy to start a research paper? But wait! There’s more. You get to do it all over again tomorrow.
Over the last eleven months, I have been working toward a degree through an all-online program. I’m sure I speak for thousands of others when I say this is no easy feat. Hundreds of pages of weekly reading, library and online research, a paper due every other week, virtual group projects, online exams, and mandatory discussion forum posts all in addition to, well, life, including the responsibility of being a working professional.
Week nights often consist of motivational self-pep talks: “You’re not too tired – you can totally do this!” Or, the bribe: “If you just finish these 70 pages, you get to watch Survivor!” The weekends are even better: “I’m so excited – I get a whole Saturday to catch up!” My husband is even into the incentives now: “You can do it, hun, just one more discussion question then it’s time for The Amazing Race!” We don’t have kids yet, but I can imagine the work/school balance is exponentially more challenging for those who do!
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
All of that said, I have to be honest… Despite the organized chaos that the last eleven months have been, I’m going to be a little bit sad when it all comes to an end next summer. Once my initial panic subsided about a month into the program, my days became filled with constant learning, a deeper thirst for knowledge, a broader worldview, the continued reminder to be inquisitive and to think critically, and a greater appreciation for others’ views, particularly those that are different from mine.
For these reasons I hope my learning never ends, because I truly believe it is a defining quality that sets leaders apart. The greatest leaders in my life have been those with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They embrace change, always look to discover something new, and aren’t afraid to adapt when needed. They willingly accept feedback. Leaders are always looking for ways to challenge themselves – to take risks – even if it brings the possibility of failure. They seek wisdom from those who have gone before them; they aren’t afraid to ask questions. A lack of knowledge is not viewed as a weakness, but rather as an opportunity to grow.
I hope we all never stop learning.

7 thoughts on “The Work-School Balance

  1. Great article Michelle! I can relate to your thoughts and feelings. I finished both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree as a working adult, and although stressful and exhausting, I look back on those experiences fondly because it was a time of great learning and broadening my horizons in new ways. Just as importantly, I think the mark of a true professional is someone who continues learning even when done with their formal schooling. Life itself is a learning journey and we need to maximize every moment!

  2. Kudos to you for continuing your education! I am also working to balance work and working towards my MBA. I agree it is hard-work but I know it is setting a great example for my children and co-workers. And I love it!! I love learning and bringing a new perspective to my job.
    Thanks for sharing your story! Good luck in wrapping up your program.

  3. I am right there with you. I work full time, am in school full time and am a wife and mother. My biggest challenge is that there is NO empty time. An emergency, or a special event means that something else doesn’t get done. The upside? Learning, learning, learning! I look forward to graduation in May and the time to read everything I have collected over the last 2 years, that didn’t make it onto the “have to read” list, but looked really interesting.

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