University is a pressure-filled environment. As students, many of us attempt to balance five classes per semester with a part-time job, volunteer commitments, and social time with friends and family. For professors, there is the constant pressure to balance teaching preparation and class lectures with the need to engage in, interpret and publish research. Administrators face complex decisions that affect thousands of students and employees at the university. Administrators and faculty also must balance their work with social and familial pressure. Mental health is rapidly becoming a strong focus at the University of Alberta, but despite prominence of the issue, stress will always exist.
From a personal standpoint, serving as VPA has been a great experience, but it comes with its fair share of stress. I can arrive in the morning at 7 AM and work non-stop until the evening, and still fall behind on different initiatives. That’s the case right now with the undergraduate research symposium. Lots of work done, but much left to do. In comparison to others, my life is pretty easy. Some members of the university suffer the death of a family member. Some students are required to withdraw, and are forced to return home (which could be outside of the province or the country). Some faculty do not receive tenure after years of work within a university.
The point of this entry is to think about the following question: “What keeps you going?” When you face adversity, what is it that sustains you? We all move through peaks and valleys. That is inevitable. So when you descend into the valleys, what do you tell yourself that allows you to climb to level ground, and then gradually hike to the peak? For me, the answer rests somewhere between family and sports. When times are tough, I spend much of my time at home where I can relax with those closest to me. I also relieve stress by running around the gravel track across the street by shifting focus from the rigours of the VPA portfolio to the pattern of my breathing or the movement of my legs.
But what is it that keeps you going? Maybe you already know the answer, because you have thought about this in advance. If you haven’t though, set aside some time to reflect. By knowing what inspires and drives you, I am confident that you will make the most out of the more challenging situations in life, and become a better person because of that.