I remember as a teen, contemplating the international baccalaureate program at a local high school. I definitely had the chops for it, but I knew people in that program—it was intense.
It wasn’t the demands of the program that threw me; it was the all-consuming nature of it. For four years, you couldn’t do anything but be in the program. No extracurricular activities, no part-time job. No life. Even at the age of 15 or 16, having a life was important to me -- and not just in that "hanging out with friends" kind of way.
My spirit required fulfillment outside the confines of daily responsibilities. I was involved in my high school's renown theater program, I anchored the school news broadcast, and I was president of the engineering club for two years. I held down various part-time jobs along the way. Participated heavily in church. Formed a little teenage singing group with my best friend. Acted in an indie film two counties away. Not to mention, there was a high school sweetheart in the picture.
To me, a full, rich life encompassed an array of things, so dedicating myself to a draconian academic program for more than three years was out of the question.
We change and grow as we get older, but this aspect of my personality has not changed much. I’ve never been one of those “all work and no play” kind of people. Enriching experiences, fun, “me time”…these pleasurable pursuits are prominent on my priority list, calculated into my budget, penned into my calendar. Creating moments and memories is the oil in my engine.
That said, some of my biggest decisions this year will likely require curtailing or canceling some highly anticipated plans, as well as throwing a wrench into the spontaneity I enjoy on a day-to-day basis. It would mean less of the big things like traveling and concerts, as well as less of the small moments I treasure, like the occasional Saturday afternoon nap on the couch.
The problem is the word "less" when I should be saying "all." The next person may find this year to be somewhat difficult, but they'll be fine because he or she plans to forsake everything else. I don't. To maintain my sanity, my equilibrium, my sense of self, I have to manage to do what I need to do, while doing some of what I want to do, which is inherently also what I need to do.
Achieving this year's goals requires a level of discipline I've never had to -- or chosen to -- muster. As much as I want to believe I will rise to the occasion, this kind of massive lockdown of time and freedom dwells in completely unchartered territory. To say it will be challenging is like saying the moon is a little far away.
The only thing I do know for sure, is that I have the will.
And you know what they say about that.