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On December 31st, 2014, I made a simple mantra for myself: be present.


Presence is not only important, but in some ways, it is the only thing that is important. Regardless of what your commitments or values are, you cannot do justice to any of them until you force yourself to be present – to give yourself in the moment to whatever is you believe is worthwhile be it friendship, family, education, work, service, religion, etc. None of these things can become really meaningful without allowing yourself to genuinely present while doing them.


What I am stating is pretty straightforward if not obvious, yet it didn’t really hit me until this week. For the past several days, I have found myself drifting off in a million different directions trying to balance work along with other engagements in my life. Every interaction started becoming increasingly taxing to the point where I could enjoy very little of it. All the things I had happily and excitedly committed to starting feeling exclusively like burdens including spending time with people I care about.


Before this week, I had pretty much let my internship exist as the only thing on my plate. And that I could balance. However, factor in almost anything else, and the weariness starts to set in. This reality has made me realize a lot of things. For one, it is an incredible privilege to be a college student studying what I love debt-free. Compared to most other scenarios, I am living in a utopia. Rather than worrying about bills or working grueling hours or having to meet the expectations of a boss, I get to read cool papers, write interesting papers, and work on exciting projects in literally whatever field appeals to me.


For another, I have a newfound appreciation for everything that my parents, particularly my mother, have given me. The homework checking, Disney TV marathon-ing, swim-lesson-attending on top of the cooking and cleaning all happened after the 8-5 MDing and with zero monetary compensation at all. On top of all of this, you have the incredible amounts of emotional labor parenting, especially mothering requires. Working mothers are no short of super-heroes.


Finally, my exhaustion has given me a moment to think about what kind of career I want to pursue.  Towards the beginning of college, I had decided that I wanted to work in the public interest field. A lot of people questioned my decision due to the fact that in their worldview it was a waste for someone with the social and educational capital that I had to obtain a degree that would not put me in the top 1% income bracket. They told me that social justice and human rights activism could be a side-hobby. I could have my cake and eat it too. However, the reality as I am beginning to see is that your job takes a huge chunk of your time, focus, skills, and energy. Occupying a minimum of forty hours of your week, a job doesn’t seem to provide much room for additional pursuits. With this in mind, the path I’ve chosen, a path many ridicule as impractical, starts to feel like the pragmatic choice. If there is one dimension of life that I care about more than others, then it seems logical to pursue it via a career. Attempting to make it a meaningful side-hobby given the constraints of time and energy seems like an exhaustive process.


After this week, I have lost interest in sacrificing my ability to be a well-rested participant in my life in exchange for the personal satisfaction of possessing the imagery of “doing it all.” I do not want to do it all. I just want to give myself the space to do a few meaningful things well.