I stopped believing in balance a long time ago.
I was driving myself to madness while searching for it in every nook and cranny of my life. I was told that balance was the answer to my stress, but I now realize that looking for something that is nonexistent was actually the source of my stress. For me, it was like trying to find a unicorn and being super bummed when all I could find was a horse.
I’m really into definitions and after looking up “balance” this is what I found, “An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady”.
Even? That’s the hard part. An even distribution of all the roles that I play in my life was not going to keep me upright and steady. In fact, it was probably going to be the thing that caused me to fall to my knees.
I get to wear a lot of hats in my life as well as do the necessary thing of taking care of my wellbeing. I’m an educator, learner, Christian, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, supervisor, volunteer, board member, speaker/facilitator, and sometimes blogger, etc.
If all of these roles held an even distribution of weight in my life, I might, by definition, experience a balanced life, but I would also experience one that was not well prioritized and would probably leave me unfulfilled.
Balance is also the amount of money in your bank account and I can guarantee you that you’re not trying to spend those dollars in equal amounts. Why would you do this with any other resource you have at your disposal?
I think when we use this term, we ask people to practice something that is often unrealistic. Instead, I like to think about “where do I need to put the most of the best of me?” I don’t desire to allocate time equally but I do work to allocate it equitably. This balance sheet changes on a daily basis. Sometimes it changes of my own volition or often it changes because a student plops down at my table, something blows up in my inbox, my mom calls, I get a text message that I decide to focus on for the next 5 minutes, or I just decide to rest my eyes and engage in some deep breathing to slow down the hamster that lives in my head. Life is happening all the time and to be honest, it doesn’t care about your carefully laid out plan for the day.
I was told at a very young age that there was 100% or even 110% of me and that I was to put this percentage into everything that I did in my life. That’s not a thing that anyone can be expected to do, but this is what “balance” often calls us to do. It asks us to tend to all of who we are on an equal plane. Instead, answer the question of “where do I need to put the most of the best of me?” Then do that and keep working your way through the list of roles you play on the stage of life. I do this with the understanding that today, my volunteer identity isn’t going to get any of my attention because my career and my identity as a daughter are the only openings I have in my head and in my heart.
I am making peace with the fact that I can’t be everything to everyone. That I can be seen as a hero and a villain on the same day depending on where I decide to spend my time, talent, and treasure.
In the same way that we need to give up valuing people who are well-rounded more than those who’ve found their niche and are working from a place of strength, we need to stop valuing balance and pushing in it in a way, that at least for me, led to even more harm.
I wish you well on your balance journey. I’ll be over here in the corner, somehow uneven and reasonably steady at the same time.
Krystal Nicole Clark, M.Ed. is from Portsmouth, VA. Upon graduation she moved to Durham, NC where she served as the Program Coordinator for Fraternity & Sorority Life at Duke University. In 2011, Krystal moved to Nashville and accepted a position at Vanderbilt University. She was quickly recognized for her hard work, and after being promoted twice, Krystal accepted her current role in 2015 as Director of Student Leadership Development.
When she’s not working at Vanderbilt or volunteering in the community, she serves as a speaker and facilitator for fraternal organizations, educational institutions, and non-profits across the country. In 2016, she contributed a chapter to The Freshman Project: A Collection of Practical and Clever Advice about the College Experience offering advice to first-year college students and has blogged for Levo League, Mavenly + Co., Girls to the Moon, Yellow, and Creative Souls Tribe. Krystal has many accolades under her belt, but her newest venture begins in June serving as the first African American President of the Junior League of Nashville.