Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sleep, Socialize, Get Stuff Done, Don't Neglect Your Family

I went to a pretty nerdy, high-pressure high school. A common refrain there was "sleep, socialize, study: pick two." I can't help but be reminded of this mantra while training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). All you have to do is replace "study" with "complete your academic and administrative homework" or, more simply, "get stuff done." I can't even imagine how much harder it is for those with children at home, but I'm sure you could round out the catchphrase with "don't neglect your family," as well.

During A-100, it seemed like there was some kind of social event planned at least four nights a week. Between happy hours, bonfires, trivia nights, artistic performances, community sports, and even a roast, the list of possibilities seemed endless.

It's so important to set boundaries and some type of routine as early as humanly possible. There may be some who attend every Foreign Service-related social event and some who attend none, but for most there's a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. For me, I've found that attending events a few times a week still leaves me enough time to hang out with my local friends and see (or at least call) my family weekly. I'm also (usually) getting enough sleep every night and cooking my own meals, which I've found makes a huge difference.

Of course, there are sacrifices. For all the talk of work-life balance, I've found the workday consistently creeping into my lunches, evenings, or weekends as I need to check my work email or complete paperwork outside of training. I'm not exercising as frequently, and I cut some things out of my daily routine (like Duolingo).

I also thought I might magically find more hours in the day after A-100, but that is sadly not the case. Although the professional social events have decreased, more time outside of training than ever is required to complete all of the administrative grunt work required to make our first move overseas. On top of that, we are trying to see as many friends and family as possible before we leave.

I'm constantly re-evaluating and re-prioritizing my schedule, as I repeatedly find myself unable to accomplish everything on my daily to-do list. Yet I'm sure I'm better off learning this skill sooner rather than later in this lifestyle. After all, I'll never be able to attend the same gym, party with the same crowd, or eat the same food for more than a few years at a time. There's no time like the present to start getting used to that!

This reality has taught me to cherish the slower, quieter, and lazier moments in my life so much more. Whether I'm out enjoying nature with family, as I was when I took the photos included in this post, or lounging on the couch with a hot cup of herbal tea and a good book, I'm no longer taking those experiences for granted nearly as much as I did.

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