Good early afternoon on a Labor Day,
I am currently laying on my bed as I compose this, but I spent the majority of my morning reading blogs. One of the things I have required students to write the past few years is a blog. The rationale is two-fold. First, it requires them to write on a regular basis and second, because it is public, it requires them to consider audience more carefully. What I have found in my own writing of a blog is that it actually clears my head and allows me to think more systematically.
It was 5 years ago yesterday ( hence beginning my sixth year) that I taught my first class at Bloomsburg University. I am amazed that much time has already passed. It has gone by quickly and it has been productive and enjoyable. I have been saying for sometime or has been the best five years of my life professionally, but I am beginning to believe that might also be the same for my life personally. I am not sure I realized that until I began to carefully consider where I am and how fortunate I am. In part, it could be because I have not done much to separate my professional and personal lives. It might also be because being a professor is not what I do, but it is who I am. Yet, one needs other aspects to his or her life.
I have read again and again how my new students, and some not so new, need to learn to balance their social and academic lives. We are really no different, we merely need to work in opposite directions most often. I am forced, if I am to be honestly reflective, that seldom have I ever balanced these two aspects of my life. I am not sure where that imbalance began; perhaps when I got to Dana College. Up to that point I was successful at moments in my professional life, but I was inconsistent at best. I am not sure I actually even had a personal life, I merely floated along. There were times and there were specific people who made me look at myself. My former pastor, Fred Peters might have been the first person in my adult life to held me accountable for some of my stupidity. My cousin was really the first person who caused me to think about how my actions affected another. She still does. My year traveling on a Lutheran Youth Encounter team and my host families, perhaps Lee and Judy Swenson did more to get me to look at what I was doing and where I was headed. I was 23 and rather aimless.
My time at Dana was certainly one of the most important growth periods in my life up to that point. I was not an 18 year old freshman like the majority of my Foundations students. I was 24; I had spent time in the Marines; I had flunked out of college and I was given another chance. I remember being petrified that I was not smart enough to be in college. I remember wondering if I was smart enough to go to the University of Iowa, but I was accepted into their honors program. I had a full tuition scholarship. I remember wondering if I had good enough grades to get into seminary, but I made it. Then there was getting into Michigan Tech and being rejected. Thanks to a chance meeting in the Library (the restaurant) with Carol Berkenkotter. I ended up on a journey that would actually bring me back to Pennsylvania. I remember Don Williams and I specifically taking about the disjuncture between my personal and professional life at times.
Yet in the 14 years since I was divorced , I have struggled to find a place or perhaps a reason to have a personal life. I worked at it in Wisconsin, but my professional life struggled. Since coming back to Pennsylvania I put significant effort into establishing that aspect, but distance and schedules strained that attempt and, in spite of such similarities, the attempt, from both sides, was not successful. I think I was trying to figure out the balance and I did not manage it well. So what do I feel now? It seems I have a better balance, but the question is why? Or more specifically what created that sense of balance. It is always amazing to me how circumstances create a sense of necessity. As I began to work on my tenure things last spring, other changes and individuals in my life required me to consider the personal aspect of my life. While there were instances and periods in my life where I felt overwhelmed and incapable, I had some consistency at the same time. That consistency and growing change in my life was a kind of second adoption. It was a two-way adoption process. I should note that my family (the family in Iowa) is as important as ever and I know they struggle with my being so far away. I miss them, but the distance, their growing, and changing houses, each of these things has kept us from communicating as often. I miss them mores than they realize or I have made clear.
This adoption has filled voids in my life I did not realize I even had. I titled a previous post “If you never had it, can you miss it?” I have since learned you can. While I am not a parent, I have been referred to as a godparent. I have realized the importance of family in a way I never have. I have begun to understand that having a balance in my life is work, but it is gratifying. While I have learned much as I have begun a sixth year, what I know (and I guess I have always known) is I still have so much yet to learn. I am 40 years older than my first year students and I am still working on the same things they are. However, now it is about more than a phrase or a cliche, it is actually about something much more important. It is about being happy, about being content.
Thanks for reading,
One thought on “Six years”
Hello Dr. Martin
Thank you for sharing your personal reflections on the importance of finding a balance between professional and personal lives. You have experienced significant growth and self-reflection throughout your life, particularly during your time in college and as a professor.
It’s also admirable that you recognize the importance of family and personal relationships in finding balance and happiness in life. Your realization that you can miss something you never had is a powerful insight, and it’s clear that your “second adoption” has filled a void in your life and provided you with a new perspective on the importance of family.
Overall, you show the importance of continual self-reflection and growth throughout one’s life. Your willingness to share your personal experiences and insights is a valuable contribution to the never-ending struggle to find balance and happiness.
While it is expected that a man who has dedicated so much to acidemia would have some trouble with a work-life balance, it is surprising that considering your prior military service, it is not second nature. From a personal perspective, it seems that most military members and veterans try to keep work and life as separate as possible and keep this habit for life. As you said, you are 40 years older than your first-year students at the time of writing. It would be ignorant of me to claim that I know definitively what a person will and will not retain throughout life. This is only a small observation of mine.
I won’t claim that the weekly blog response is a good idea for fear of facing classmates later. However, I will openly agree that the only way for students to learn is to do it. It has been years since I have had to consistently write anything of significance that wasn’t an evaluation or safety plan. Doing so now has given me an appreciation for the perishability of the skill.