Six months after completing my tenure as UWA Postgraduate Students’ Association Media Officer and I’m only just starting to feel comfortable back in the blogging space. It’s a hard thing to admit to yourself when a task completely burns you out – but that’s what happened to me being Media Officer.
In my capacity as Media Officer I drafted an email to all PSA members every week, posted on the PSA Facebook page every day, put together the monthly newsletter, updated all the website content, wrote blog posts when I could be bothered and created all the event promotion web material (which involved making a Facebook event page, a webpage, a google calendar page, a poster, and if the event required ticketing then a ticketing page as well). I was also the editor of the annual PSA magazine, Postscript. I felt like I was constantly under the pump from people wanting things included, complaining that things weren’t correctly updated and waiting for people to provide me with information.
On completion of my tenure as PSA Media Officer, I was discussing the PSA with the newly elected 2016 PSA President. He said that he hadn’t realised how much work being President would be and, jokingly I assumed, asked if it was too late to back out and quit. While I took it as a joke my response was entirely serious. Firstly, it is never too late to back out. And secondly, if you think you might back out it’s better to do it earlier rather than later.
I have a problem with commitment. Instead of being commitment-phobic I’m rejection of commitment-phobic. I always say ‘yes’ and if things get too much for me I never say ‘this has gotten to be too much for me’. I stress, moan to my friends, lie awake at night, get anxiety and just manage to squeeze things in. I always give 110% until sometimes there’s only 5% of me left (one of the reasons that I ALWAYS take my weekends as break time).
It would be great to say that at the end of the year I thought it had all been worth it. And, admittedly, there were some things that definitely were worth it (I met some fantastic people and LOVED editing the Postscript magazine), but when it comes to the day-in day-out tasks I found the work not just tiring but also demoralising. And as anyone with Academic FOMO will tell you, there’s always a sneaking suspicion that the opportunity cost of your activities isn’t working in your favour. I think about the papers that I could have finished if I hadn’t been responding to emails. I think about the literature I could have engaged with if I hadn’t been reading about election protocols.
There’s always a lesson to be learned, though, and I hope that the lesson for me in this case was to draw a line in the sand and recognise when commitments become overbearing. And learn to say ‘no’. To recognise, and say publicly, that ‘this has all become too much’.
P.S. This blog post dovetails with an article I wrote for Postscript 15 on mental health difficulties faced by postgraduates. You can find it on page here.