The balancing act

This last Saturday was Fairday. Fairday is a family friendly event for most of the day and is part of the Pride Month festivities.

I didn’t go. Usually, I go for these things but this time I didn’t.

“Why aren’t you here? You should come and take pictures and write something! There are people here who want to meet you!”

Last year, i got a tip about someone I could interview for a story. I didn’t follow up but it didn’t slip through the cracks – another journalist covered it and I was glad.

It doesn’t make me look like a great journalist, does it?

But I had to hand the story off to someone else. And I had to decide not to go to Fairday this year.

Because I am not just a journalist or just a writer. These days I have many different hats to wear. I am a conference organiser, a teacher, a journalist, a writer and a graduate student.

And I am also human and still dealing with the repercussions of a tragic event in the family.

In terms of responsibility, I am answering to myself, my family, my students, my clients and my supervisor. And I don’t have limitless energy, time or motivation. Work, a thesis, the conference and general day to day life alone just tire me out. It’s also why there is no such thing as a weekend for me.

So I say “No.” It’s something a lot of people struggle with saying and I struggle with it too but it makes a difference to say it – a huge difference.

We get raised with the idea sometimes that we must always be willing, especially to do for others, that that’s what being nice is about. That’s how people think you are reliable. Then we get swamped and we can never do anything and make it the best it could possibly be.  Every result is less than what we hoped it would be somehow.

I couldn’t have done a great job on writing about Fairday this year not while I am worrying about my thesis. I couldn’t have managed to do a charity fundraising effort for Frocktober this year with everything else going on. I wouldn’t have done a great job covering that story and done the scientist any justice but my friend really nailed it. And none of us couldn’t have got this conference up and running so far if we hadn’t drafted in the services of a conference organiser.

This is part of what I try to drum into journalism students’ heads: go for every story but know that there will be times when you can’t chase something, when someone else will do a better job, when you need to stop before you damage yourself somehow and are in no fit state to do anything. It’s part of time management, part of being organised, part of risk assessment.

Because the last thing I want to risk is my mental or physical health going down the drain. So I am grateful that I have friends who understand my one word answers and what they mean:

“Thesis!” I cried to my friend over the phone.

“Ok, you work on your thesis till five and then we will go relax a bit and have a drink, then you will go home, have dinner and get some sleep, ok? No more work, no reporting, no writing, no thesis, no marking after five, ok?”

That was the best night’s sleep in a long time that I have ever had.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.

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