A little over a year ago, I made a life-altering decision.
As a mother, wife, and full time employee, I decided to go back to a major university and finish my degree.
At 30 years old, I was preparing for a life on campus of laptops, leggings, and social chatter, an environment I had left 10 years prior.
Although I was slightly intimidated and scared of the classroom environment, every time I looked down at my three-year-old daughter, all of the fear melted away. I knew it was something I had to do for me…for us, as a family.
I embarked on one of the most stressful, inspiring, challenging, and sometimes ‘oh-my-God-my-head-is-going-to-explode’ times of my life.
I managed to come out on top, as an aspiring writer with a B.A. in English, and a perfect knack for knowing how many Starbucks double shots I could drink in one night, and still get four hours of decent sleep. Throughout this time, I continued to work full time, mother full time, and be a wife (not always a wonderful one) full time.
Here are my tips on how to find balance in life.
How To Go After Your Dreams (And Stay Sane!)
1. Get your head on straight before jumping in.
Beforehand, I got my numbers together, I figured out how much money it would cost, and I calculated how much time I had in the office, on campus, and at home. I pretty much had everything but a pie chart.
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Once I had my head in the game, I had myself convinced that it could be done. I was confident that I had everything I needed to move forward with a game plan.
Winning the argument with yourself is half the battle. If you’re more of a “I need to bounce this idea off of someone” kind of person, then go with your gut. Talk to a significant other, mentor, or parent. Compare and contrast your ideas together. If, in the end, you’re still convinced you’re heading down the right track, go for it.
2. Get a strong support system.
As a woman who always said, “oh, I’ll go back to school when I’m ready,” I’m not sure my husband ever really expected me to be ready.
After I got my head straight, I laid it all out for him. (Turns out, the face he makes when he’s wrapping his brain around something is the same face he makes when he’s reaching his hand in the toilet bowl to pull out a baby doll that mysteriously decided to take a bath.)
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After the shock wore off, he jumped in feet first. He repeatedly told me that he’ll do anything I need to help me through this. Anything. He meant it.
By the first day of school, I knew that all I had to worry about was me—he had the rest. I’ve told people many times that without him, I couldn’t have found balance in life. I’m forever in his debt.
Again, whether it’s a parent, mentor, or significant other, make sure that there are people out there that believe in you.
My husband wasn’t the only one. My family was always behind me. I even had my co-workers in on my plan, and they accommodated my schedule.
It’s ok to be selfish sometimes. It took me a long time to convince myself of that, but once I decided to take back the awesomeness of me, things fell into place.
The biggest challenge is believing in yourself. It’s amazing how many supporters will come out of the woodwork, once they learn you’re sticking your neck out there for the greater good. My supporters inspired me, and kept me going.
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3. Wear one hat at a time.
This one was hard for me. I had to wear my work hat at the office. My mom hat was on when I was in the spotlight to be mommy. My wife hat was secured when I could see my husband stressing about something, or needed my support or nurturing. My school hat was on when I was in class, in front of my computer typing papers, or sitting on the couch, reading countless classic novels.
If I allowed the lines to blur at all, I could feel myself spiraling. The best thing I ever did was commit 100% to my environment, no matter where I was.
It’s ok to stumble. Nothing will ever go as planned. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and always secure your hat with a bobby pin, especially if you’re feeling a bit wobbly.
4. Don’t give up.
It may seem pretty obvious that you shouldn’t give up, no matter what you are tackling in life. However, unfortunately, quitting will be tempting at times, and when those times present themselves, go back to step one.
Get your head straight again, and it’ll all come together. Even if you’ve had balance in your life for weeks, months, years, things can sometimes get off-kilter again, and it just means you need to take a break.
If it means you need to take a day off work to just crash in bed, do it. After you’re back in a good place, get up and keep on going. You’ll be glad you did.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Losing it at home? Lean on someone close to you to talk you through it. Having problems balancing work and home life? Talk to someone. Don’t even be afraid to seek professional help.
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If you feel yourself spiraling, get help. No one is perfect. We will all need help once in a while. If you’re really in it to help yourself, be in it 100%. You’re worth it.
As ridiculous as “YOLO” sounds, you really only do live once. If there’s something out there that you know is calling you, be open to listening to it, and if you decide to go for it, jump in. If you are thinking of making some serious life changes that are making you nervous, get your head straight, and move forward from there. Find balance in life. Weigh your options. Take your time. Don’t rush, and know your limits. Don’t forget to have some fun along the way.
Audra Dittlinger is a contributor for Inspiyr, as well as a full-time working mom living in rural Indiana. She is an insurance professional with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She writes to create, inspire, and empower.
Photo by Beatriz Pitarch